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

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September 30, 2009

Alabama: email on county server may have violated state law

The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County officials are asking that an e-mail from an employee running for a seat on the County Commission be investigated to see if state laws prohibiting the use of county property for political activity were violated.

County attorneys say Ed Henson, the county's chief deputy tax assessor, sent a message Sept. 23 from his county e-mail account to "all users" announcing he would be on leave and then retiring from the tax assessor's office. It also said he would be a "candidate for the Jefferson County commissioner in District 4."

Henson said he filed papers Tuesday to run for the seat now held by County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins.

The e-mail has been turned over to the district attorney's office, said assistant county attorney Charles Wagner. -- Read the whole story --> Jefferson County seeks district attorney probe into chief deputy tax assessor's e-mail -

September 26, 2009

Alabama: Calera will use limited voting; DOJ approves new election date

The Birmingham News reports: Calera officials received permission Friday from the U.S. Department of Justice to proceed with Nov. 10 municipal elections.

The decision came 13 months after city leaders learned that the Justice Department would not accept the voting boundaries used in the 2008 municipal elections last August. Justice Department officials objected to the boundaries, which eliminated the city's sole minority district. As a result, Mayor George Roy and the incumbent city council have remained in office. ...

In July, the City Council passed a temporary voting plan calling for six at-large council seats instead of the current five council members representing five districts. A new plan will be developed based on data from the 2010 Census. ...

"The city's adoption of the at-large, limited voting plan with six council members reflects a good-faith effort to effectively remedy the concerns raised in our objection," the letter from Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general, reads in part. -- Read the whole story at --> Justice Department says OK to Calera election plan -

Alabama: rare appeal from denial of voter registration

The Prattville Progress reports: An 18-year-old local woman whose voter registration application was reject­ed by county registrars because she inad­vertently listed her former address on the document, has appealed the decision to the Autauga County Judge of Probate.

Judge Al Booth confirmed Thursday that his office had received a letter from Jasmine Dent, who asked that Booth overturn the board of registrar's deci­sion that listed her attempt at joining lo­cal voter rolls as a "fraudulent" applica­tion. ...

Booth did provide a requested copy of the Sept. 4 letter, which requested a sum­mary judgment in her favor, based on the actions of board member Bobby Wise, who rejected the application on the basis of the incorrect address and telephone number Dent listed on her initial voter registration form.

Dent, who filed an amended applica­tion minutes after Wise pointed out the inaccuracies, expressed on paper her be­lief that the registrar could have resolved the issue by allowing her to file a cor­rected form. -- Read the whole story at --> :: Appeal filed in voter application rejection

September 24, 2009

Alabama: lawsuit over 2008 Cedar Bluff election

The Gadsden Times reports: A new lawsuit relating to the 2008 Cedar Bluff municipal elections was filed Wednesday in the Circuit Court of Cherokee County.

The suit, filed by Evan Smith, is a complaint for declaratory, injunctive and other relief in regard to the fact that three of the candidates in the August 2008 election have not yet filed their financial reports (contributions and expenses) for 2008.

The Fair Campaign Practices Act (Title 17-5 of the Alabama Code) requires a candidate to file an annual report listing donors who contribute more than $100 to the candidate’s campaign, the names of persons to whom expenditures more than $100 have been made, the grand total of receipts for the campaign during the year, the grand total of expenses during the year, the amount and nature of debts and obligations owed and how they were extinguished. -- Read the full article at --> Lawsuit related to 2008 Cedar Bluff elections filed

September 15, 2009

Alabama: 2 plead guilty to absentee voter fraud

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Valada Paige Banks on Monday became the second woman charged with felony voter fraud in Hale County to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

Banks, 46, received a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting to third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

She will not have to spend any time in jail, but was placed on probation for two years by retired Chambers County Circuit Judge Howard Bryan, who was appointed to hear the case. She also was assessed $400 in court costs.

Rosie Lyles, 68, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Aug. 31 and received a similar sentence. Both women were indicted in August 2007 on multiple felony counts of promoting illegal absentee voting during special elections in Hale County in 2004 and 2005. -- Read the whole story --> Hale County voter fraud defendant pleads guilty | | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL

September 10, 2009

Call for Papers: Voting 45 Years After the Voting Rights Act

The Saint Louis University Public Law Review invites the submission of article abstracts relating to its Spring 2010 symposium theme: Voting 45 Years After the Voting Rights Act.

The symposium, which will be held on Friday, March 26, 2010, will consist of three round-table panel discussions examining the Voting Rights Act, with emphasis on the implementation of the Act and possible future legislation amending the act or creating new legislation.

The Voting Rights Act: Still Relevant Today?
This panel will focus on the implementation of the Voting Rights Act as well as the recent Supreme Court cases regarding the Act.

Voting on the Ground
This panel will consider the challenges facing different groups across the country in registering to vote and accessing polling places on Election Day. It will look at how the Voting Rights Act addresses these issues, the increasing role third parties—such as individual campaigns and groups such as ACORN—play in the voting process, and whether additional government legislation or intervention is needed.

Voting in the Future
This panel will focus on possible amendments or alternatives to the Voting Rights Act and what can be done to increase registration and voter access to polls.

Invitations to present and publish will be made by the Editorial Board following review of the submitted abstracts, which should be limited to 300 words and represent original, unpublished work. Abstracts must be received by October 1, 2009 to be considered, and responses to submissions will be sent on or before November 1, 2009. Drafts of papers selected must be received by February 12, 2010.

Following the March 26, 2010 conference, final drafts of papers to be published must be received by April 15, 2010. The papers will be published in the Fall 2010 edition of the St. Louis University Public Law Review.

Abstracts may be submitted to Jennifer Beasley, jbeasle6 at

September 9, 2009

Alabama: Calera thinks it can hold an election

The Birmingham News reports: The Calera City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night calling for a new municipal election on Nov. 10.

The move is contingent on approval from U.S. Justice Department officials, who declared the results of the 2008 municipal election invalid.

The Justice Department did not approve the city's new voting lines used in the 2008 election because Calera's only district made up mainly of minorities was eliminated. ...

City Clerk Connie Payton told council members in a work session prior to the meeting that the city's attorneys advised the council to set the date after talking on the phone with Justice Department officials all day Tuesday. -- Calera City Council calls for a new municipal election -

September 6, 2009

Alabama: "Large chunks of Birmingham city council campaign cash untraceable"

The Birmingham News reports: Large chunks of campaign cash contributed to Birmingham City Council candidates are untraceable because the contributing political action committees haven't filed either campaign disclosure forms or organizational papers, an apparent violation of Alabama's Fair Campaign Practices Act.

In other cases, the source of the money that fueled city races can't be determined because the cash was transferred among PACs before being given to candidates, a Birmingham News review of financial disclosure forms shows.

The biggest PAC contributor to council candidates was former Mayor Richard Arrington's JENNRO PAC, the review found. Other major contributors included bingo interests and the people and groups associated with Business Alliance for Responsible Development.

Among the PACs that contributed to council races but that did not file paperwork allowing the source of the money to be tracked was New Generation PAC.

The group is listed as having contributed $15,000 to Sheila Tyson's campaign and $6,000 to Ernestine G. Williams' campaign. That's more than half of the total Tyson raised and more than 90 percent of Williams' campaign total. -- Read the whole story --> Large chunks of Birmingham city council campaign cash untraceable - Stories from The Birmingham News -

Alabama: book on "Bloody Lowndes"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Much of what happened during the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march occurred along a 22-mile stretch of U.S. 80 in one of Alabama's most sparsely populated counties.

Historians tend to focus instead on much larger Dallas and Montgomery counties, a source of displeasure for many of the 12,600 residents of Lowndes County, especially those old enough to remember what happened more than four decades ago.

That's about to change with Hasan Jeffries' "Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt."

A research project that lasted a decade for the Brooklyn-born historian, it led him to Alabama dozens of times to interview veterans of the civil rights era. He also spent countless hours sifting through archival documents in what began as a doctoral dissertation and became much more. -- Read the full article --> Author brings Lowndes Co. civil rights history to light | | Montgomery Advertiser

September 3, 2009

Alabama: Cable company will broadcast candidate forums

The Birmingham News reports: Bright House Cable Networks will broadcast a series of public forums featuring candidates in the Oct. 6 City Council runoff.

The cable operator is responding to a call for fairness from several council challengers who say the sitting council members have an unfair advantage each Tuesday during the televised meetings. ...

Rafferty and Elias Hendricks wrote to the cable company asking for air time to balance exposure given to the council members, saying the council meetings amount to free publicity for the incumbents. -- Read the whole story --> Bright House Cable to broadcast series of public forums featuring candidates in the Oct. 6 City Council runoff -

September 2, 2009

Alabama: Evergreen to appeal portion of election contest ruling

The Mobile Press-Register reports: City attorney Terry Davis recommended the city appeal part of a judge's decision in the ongoing challenge of last October's mayoral vote, a move one councilman called "bull crap."

Davis said an order issued a week ago by specially appointed retired Mobile County Circuit Judge Edward McDermott declared challenger Pete Wolff III winner of the election, but incumbent Mayor Larry Fluker was "in the process of appealing" the ruling. ...

Davis said part of the order "changed the way Evergreen has been doing elections since time began" and that the city should appeal that portion of the ruling.

"It said that instead of using the voting list we have used and the process we have used for a number of years, we should have been using the secretary of state's voter list," Davis said. "The court directed in this order the city must use a process we have never used before, and we raised an objection in court that he did not rule on."

Davis said the secretary of state and the league of municipalities agreed with the way the city conducted the election, and he believed the judge was wrong. He said it would cost the city money to change the process. -- Read the whole story --> Evergreen city attorney advises appeal of judge's ruling in mayoral election challenge -

September 1, 2009

Alabama: Winning candidate calls on AG to investigate loser

The Dothan Eagle reports: Betty Peters believes that if you’re going to get something done, you’ve got to take it to the top.

The district 2 state school board member did just that last night, calling on Alabama Attorney General Troy King to investigate what she labeled as wrongdoing by a candidate for the district 3 state school board seat in last year’s election.

Peters said that Skip Smithwick, who ran for Stephanie Bell’s seat, has not properly filled out campaign finance reports detailing from where he received all of his campaign contributions.

According to Smithwick’s latest filing, filed in June 2008, Smithwick reported donations totalling about $235,000.

Not reported on Smithwick’s filing are donations from some political action commitees, including a $31,000 contribution from The Environmental Campaign Fund, a $15,000 contribution from the Arbor Committee , a $5,000 contribution from the Fund for Alabama’s Children and Education and a $100,000 contribution from the Real Democrat PAC. The PACs listed their donations to Smithwick as required in their filings with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. -- Read the whole story --> State school board member calls on AG to investigate campaign finance