Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: July 2009 Archives

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July 30, 2009

Campaigning while on active duty

The Capitol Fax Blog reports the Rep. Mark Kirk has tweeted at least twice about his then-current active duty in the Navy at the National Military Command Center. Capitol Fax has updated the blog post to include the correct DOD regulation, which I reproduced below in full. Flip over to part 4.3.3 to get to the stuff about being a candidate while on active duty ("AD" in military-speak).

Read the whole blog post at --> The Capitol Fax Blog » *** UPDATED x1 *** Should campaign have posted while candidate was on duty?

http://www.scribd.com/doc/17858528/DOD-Directive-Political-Activities-by-Members-of-the-Armed-Forces

July 28, 2009

How to hold an election if the county won't deliver the voting machines

Jefferson County, Alabama, is in a financial crisis. Because a court has voided the county's occupational tax (a tax on wages), the county will not have the money to pay its workers on 21 August. But the City of Birmingham will be holding an election for the city council and school board. As the Birmingham News reports:

The county doesn't have the money to pay for personnel to deliver or test voting machines for the Aug. 25 Birmingham elections, officials said Monday.

Jefferson County has provided the tabulation machines for past municipal elections.

That means the city will have to find a way to deliver 236 voting machines for City Council and city school board elections.

[Mayor Larry] Langford said city workers will fill the void.

"We will send public works workers over to help deliver the machines to the appropriate places," he said.

Read the whole story --> Birmingham employees will deliver voting machines

July 23, 2009

Alabama: state requirements for ballot access upheld

Ballot Access News reports: On July 23, U.S. District Court Mark Fuller, a Bush, Jr., appointee, upheld the number of signatures required for an independent U.S. House candidate in Alabama. Shugart v Chapman, middle district, 2:08-cv-1016-MEF. Here is the 7-page decision.

Alabama requires 5,000 signatures for an independent presidential candidate, but in 2008 it required 6,155 for an independent U.S. House candidate in the 6th district. Alabama is the only state that requires more signatures for any independent candidates for U.S. House than it requires for an independent candidate for President. -- Read the whole story and get the link --> Ballot Access News » Blog Archive » U.S. District Court in Alabama Says State May Require More Signatures for U.S. House than for President

July 21, 2009

On the House calendar today: the Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act

Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act (Reported in House)

HR 2510 RH

Union Calendar No. 85

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2510

[Report No. 111-169]

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to reimburse States for the costs incurred in establishing a program to track and confirm the receipt of voted absentee ballots in elections for Federal office and make information on the receipt of such ballots available by means of online access, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 20, 2009

Mrs. DAVIS of California (for herself and Mr. MCCARTHY of California) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration

June 19, 2009

Additional sponsors: Mr. MCGOVERN, Mr. HOLT, and Mr. SESTAK

June 19, 2009

Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

A BILL

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to reimburse States for the costs incurred in establishing a program to track and confirm the receipt of voted absentee ballots in elections for Federal office and make information on the receipt of such ballots available by means of online access, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act'.

SEC. 2. REIMBURSEMENT FOR COSTS INCURRED IN ESTABLISHING PROGRAM TO TRACK AND CONFIRM RECEIPT OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS.

(a) Reimbursement- Subtitle D of title II of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 15401 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new part:

`PART 7--PAYMENTS TO REIMBURSE STATES FOR COSTS INCURRED IN ESTABLISHING PROGRAM TO TRACK AND CONFIRM RECEIPT OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS

`SEC. 297. PAYMENTS TO STATES.

`(a) Payments For Costs of Establishing Program- In accordance with this section, the Commission shall make a payment to a State to reimburse the State for the costs incurred in establishing, if the State so chooses to establish, an absentee ballot tracking program with respect to elections for Federal office held in the State (including costs incurred prior to the date of the enactment of this part).

`(b) Absentee Ballot Tracking Program Described-

`(1) PROGRAM DESCRIBED-

`(A) IN GENERAL- In this part, an `absentee ballot tracking program' is a program to track and confirm the receipt of absentee ballots in an election for Federal office under which the State or local election official responsible for the receipt of voted absentee ballots in the election carries out procedures to track and confirm the receipt of such ballots, and makes information on the receipt of such ballots available to the individual who cast the ballot, by means of online access using the Internet site of the official's office.

`(B) INFORMATION ON WHETHER VOTE WAS COUNTED- The information referred to under subparagraph (A) with respect to the receipt of an absentee ballot shall include information regarding whether the vote cast on the ballot was counted, and, in the case of a vote which was not counted, the reasons therefor.

`(2) USE OF TOLL-FREE TELEPHONE NUMBER BY OFFICIALS WITHOUT INTERNET SITE- A program established by a State or local election official whose office does not have an Internet site may meet the description of a program under paragraph (1) if the official has established a toll-free telephone number that may be used by an individual who cast an absentee ballot to obtain the information on the receipt of the voted absentee ballot as provided under such paragraph.

`(c) Certification of Compliance and Costs-

`(1) CERTIFICATION REQUIRED- In order to receive a payment under this section, a State shall submit to the Commission a statement containing--

`(A) a certification that the State has established an absentee ballot tracking program with respect to elections for Federal office held in the State; and

`(B) a statement of the costs incurred by the State in establishing the program.

`(2) AMOUNT OF PAYMENT- The amount of a payment made to a State under this section shall be equal to the costs incurred by the State in establishing the absentee ballot tracking program, as set forth in the statement submitted under paragraph (1), except that such amount may not exceed the product of--

`(A) the number of jurisdictions in the State which are responsible for operating the program; and

`(B) $3,000.

`(3) LIMIT ON NUMBER OF PAYMENTS RECEIVED- A State may not receive more than one payment under this part.

`SEC. 297A. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

`(a) Authorization- There are authorized to be appropriated to the Commission for fiscal year 2010 and each succeeding fiscal year such sums as may be necessary for payments under this part.

`(b) Continuing Availability of Funds- Any amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization under this section shall remain available until expended.'.

(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of contents of such Act is amended by adding at the end of the items relating to subtitle D of title II the following:

`Part 7--Payments To Reimburse States for Costs Incurred in Establishing Program To Track and Confirm Receipt of Absentee Ballots

`Sec. 297. Payments to States.

`Sec. 297A. Authorization of appropriations.'.

Union Calendar No. 85

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2510

[Report No. 111-169]

A BILL

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to reimburse States for the costs incurred in establishing a program to track and confirm the receipt of voted absentee ballots in elections for Federal office and make information on the receipt of such ballots available by means of online access, and for other purposes.

June 19, 2009

Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

July 20, 2009

Scotland: "Commons should adopt PR, say Scots voters"

The Herald reports: Scots are the most satisfied about the way democracy works in the UK, a poll published today shows.

Yet the snapshot of 2000 Britons, taken by YouGov for the Fabian Society earlier this month, also shows that voters north of the border are the strongest advocates when it comes to certain changes.

For example, Scots are most strongly in favour of changing Westminster's voting system to proportional representation; and have by far the firmest republican tendencies, as they are the biggest supporters of replacing the Queen with an elected president as head of state, and are most in favour of having an elected House of Lords. ...

On voting reform, some 34% (41% in Scotland) said they favoured PR over the current first-past-the-post system for Westminster, with the Alternative Vote system coming top of the second preferences at 37%(41%). -- Read the whole story --> Commons Should Adopt PR Say Scots Voters (from The Herald )

July 16, 2009

Congratulations to Brenda Wright and Tova Wang

From Demos: Demos is delighted to announce two significant staffing changes in its Democracy Program, which works to strengthen democracy in the United States by reducing barriers to voter participation and encouraging civic engagement.

Effective June 1, Brenda Wright has been named the Director of the Democracy Program at Demos. Brenda has been an integral part of the Demos Democracy Program since 2006, serving previously as its Legal Director. In her new capacity, Brenda will direct and oversee the full range of Demos’ research, policy, advocacy and litigation work on democracy issues. Prior to joining Demos, Brenda was the Managing Attorney for the National Voting Rights Institute, a legal and public education organization dedicated to voting rights and meaningful campaign finance reform. She has been a long-time leader in the voting rights and electoral reform legal communities, and has argued two cases before the United States Supreme Court: Young v. Fordice, and Randall v. Sorrell. Brenda is based in the Boston office of Demos.

Also, effective September 1, Demos is proud to welcome Tova Wang as Senior Democracy Fellow. Tova has been a Democracy Fellow at the Century Foundation since 2001, and she will retain that affiliation in addition to her Demos Fellowship. Tova also served as the Vice President for Research at Common Cause. Tova is a widely known and insightful researcher and writer, and has authored numerous publications on election reform, election administration, voting rights, and other key democracy issues. She wrote a well known report on voter fraud and voter intimidation on behalf of the federal Election Assistance Commission. Tova will join the Demos staff officially on September 1, and will be based with a growing group of Demos staff located in the nation's Capital.

Demos President Miles Rapoport said he was delighted to make the two announcements.

"Brenda Wright has been a stalwart for Demos as the Democracy Program's Legal Director the last three years. Her dedication to an overarching reform agenda and her skill as a manager, combined with her superb legal skills, make her the perfect person to direct this key program. In Tova Wang, Demos will be adding one of the most talented and recognized thought leaders in the Democracy movement to our program. In conjunction with The Century Foundation, Tova's work will advance the cause of reform and enhance Demos' contribution to it."

July 10, 2009

"Future of the Voting Rights Act"

The New American Foundation announces: On June 30th, over 100 people attended "The Future of the Voting Rights Act," a morning conference cosponsored by the New America Foundation and FairVote. The conference featured some of the nation's top voting rights experts, who came together to review the recent Supreme Court decision known as NAMUDNO and its impacts, and to think more expansively about voting rights and representation in the United States. Besides a packed house, as well as an additional 50 people watching via live webcast, a dozen staff and lawyers from the Department of Justice attended, including the head of the Voting section of the Civil Rights division, as well as many other voting rights experts and academics.

Panelists spoke on a wide range of topics, from specific issues related to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to the possibility of a right-to-vote amendment and other reforms like proportional voting which hold potential to give representation to an increasingly diverse nation.

The event video is available for viewing online. Below is a list of the times for the appearance of speakers during the two panels, which can be viewed at the event page: http://www.newamerica.net/events/2009/future_voting_rights_act.

Welcome and Introductory Comments (video)
0:00-8:30 Steven Hill, Director, Political Reform Program, New America Foundation

Panel I
The Supreme Court and Minority Voting Rights: A Discussion of NAMUDNO (video)
8:30-11:38 Rob Richie, Executive director, FairVote
11:55-21:50 Kristen Clarke, Co-Director, Political Participation Group of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
22:40-33:47 Nate Persily, Professor of Law and Political Science, Columbia Law School
33:51-43:35 Lisa Bornstein, Senior Counsel, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
43:49-55:45 Jamin Raskin, State Senator, (Maryland), Director of the Law and Government Program, Washington College of Law
55:52-1:07:13 Edward Hailes, Senior Attorney, The Advancement Project
1:07:13 Questions and Answers

Panel II
After NAMUDNO: Fair Representation in a Changing America (video)
0:00-3:00 Steven Hill, Director, Political Reform Program, New America Foundation
3:00-10:00 Myrna Perez, Brennan Center, Counsel on Democracy
13:58-22:30 Jon Greenbaum, Legal Director, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
23:35-32:10 Michael McDonald, Associate Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution
32:45-40:40 Amy Ngai, Director, Program for Representative Government, FairVote
41:30-50:18 Steven Mulroy, Associate Professor of Law, University of Memphis School of Law, Shelby County Board of Commissioners
50:50-54:40 Lightning Round, Yes and No style questions for all of the panelists
54:45 Questions and Answers

July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday

-- to the United States, only 233 years old. I was listening to the reading of the Declaration of Independence on NPR's Morning Edition yesterday, and these words struck me:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Why did Jefferson think it necessary to preface our list of grievances against the King with this statement of principles? I don't know, but I know how important those words have been in our history.

-- to this blog, 7 years old.