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

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October 29, 2009

Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act signed

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 yesterday (28 October 2009). One part of the act is the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, reproduced below.

Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act

October 21, 2009

Birmingham: How many mayors can Birmingham have in one year?

WBHM reports: Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford's trial is underway. As Langford's fate hangs in the balance at the Tuscaloosa federal courthouse, many in Birmingham wonder what will happen to his job as mayor if he's convicted. WBHM's Bradley George takes a look at some of the possibilities. ...

Birmingham-Southern political scientist Natalie Davis says the succession part of the Mayor-Council Act was written with the possible death of a mayor in mind, not so much a criminal conviction.

'To the extent that there might be these little tripwires along the way, as far as the timing of this stuff happens, I doubt anybody gave that any thought.

The biggest hang up has to do with a possible verdict in Langford's trial. Attorneys expect the trial to last about two weeks--meaning the Tuscaloosa jury could reach a verdict sometime in early November. If he's guilty, Langford would be removed from office and city council president Carole Smitherman becomes mayor. But election lawyer Ed Still says Smitherman won't have much time to get comfy in the mayor's seat.

'The president of the council only serves until the new people take office.'

The 'new people' would be the two new council members elected this year. They take office the end of November. The new council could decide to keep Smitherman as president, or they could pick someone else. If that's the case, the new council president becomes Birmingham's THIRD mayor of 2009. Oh and here's the other thing about the City Council president becoming mayor. Ed Still says their council seat goes into a kind of suspended animation. The seat is vacant as long as the council president serves as mayor.

'Her seat can't be filled because she's going to come back to it. If she says immediately, 'I'm going to run for mayor', her seat can't be filled because theoretically she can come back to it because if she doesn't win the special mayor's election.' -- Read the whole story --> If He's Found Guilty, Who Succeeds Langford? (WBHM - NPR News and Classical Music)

October 14, 2009

Birmingham: John Rogers backs off

The Birmingham News reports: State Rep. John Rogers backed away Tuesday from his allegations of voter fraud in last week's City Council runoff, saying he might have been confused about the number of disqualified ballots cast.

The Oct. 6 runoff results were certified by city officials Tuesday afternoon, and Rogers said he won't contest the numbers. But he said that does not diminish the need for reforming an election system he said makes fraud, confusion and disenfranchisement too easy. ...

Rogers said late Monday he would protest the election, after being told there were 1,400 provisional ballots cast in the runoff with only about 150 counted. Provisional ballots are given to voters when there are questions about their eligibility to vote.

Officials in the city clerk's office have said there were just 73 provisional ballots cast, of which 32 were counted. -- Read the whole story --> Rogers eases off allegations -

October 13, 2009

State Board of Education: losing candidate files final report 9 months late

The Talladega Daily Home reports: [Sylacauga] City School Board member Skip Smithwick filed his final report on campaign contributions Oct. 6, after questions arose from a member of the state Board of Education.

Smithwick, a member of the City Schools BOE for nine years, ran in the Republican primary for the District 3 state school board seat in 2008. He was defeated by incumbent Stephanie Bell.

Betty Peters, the board?s District 2 representative, asked state Attorney General Troy King in August to investigate Smithwick?s campaign finance reports, according to The Dothan Eagle.

Donations totaling around $52,000 had not been reported. The previous report Smithwick had filed in May 2008 showed donations totaling approximately $253,000. -- Read the whole story --> The Daily Home

Birmingham: John Rogers threatens challenge to council runoff over provisional ballots

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama State Rep. John Rogers said he will challenge last week's Birmingham City Council runoff elections.

Rogers said he was told there were 1,400 provisional ballots cast in the runoff and only about 150 were counted. Provisional ballots are given to voters when there are questions about their eligibility to vote in that location. -- Read the whole story --> John Rogers says he will challenge Birmingham City Council election results | Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

UPDATE: a more complete version of the story is available.

October 10, 2009

Alabama: candidate files suit over 14-month delay in runoff

The Gadsden Times reports: Evan Smith, a candidate in Cedar Bluff?s District One run-off election, filed a lawsuit in Cherokee County Circuit Court late afternoon Friday asking the court to issue an order to require the Cedar Bluff mayor and council to set a date for the election.

“More than a year after the August 2008 general election and since this summer’s ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, the town of Cedar Bluff has still not held the run-off elections. The Town of Cedar Bluff is operating with a temporary mayor who is ill, and the people need a new mayor and a district one council person,” the lawsuit reads. It goes on to explain that under normal circumstances, state law requires a run-off election to be held on the sixth Tuesday following the regular election. It asks the court to expedite the case by declaring any previous stay of elections terminated and requiring the town to hold the elections as soon as possible. -- Read the whole story --> New Cedar Bluff suit filed | | Gadsden Times | Gadsden, AL

October 9, 2009

"Reforming the Democratic Presidential Nomination"

Tom Schaller writes on I attended a panel today at Brookings featuring Elaine Kamarck and her new book, Primary Politics. Kamarck is both expert on, and key figure in, the transformation of the Democratic presidential nomination process during the past few decades. The panel was chaired by Brookings' incomparable Bill Galston, and featured WaPost national political reporter Dan Balz and PoliticsDaily's Walter Shapiro. I also met briefly with Jeff Berman, the Obama campaign's "delegate guru," who has agreed to do an interview with after the upcoming, October 22 meeting of the commission appointed to review and recommend changes to the Democratic Party's nomination process, of which he is a member. -- Read the whole post --> FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right

Marshall Turner: RIP

Tim Storey writes at The Thicket: It is with deep sorrow that I report the passing of one of NCSL's great friends. Marshall Turner died yesterday in a Maryland hospital only a few short years after retiring from the U.S. Census Bureau. While at the Census Bureau, Marshall worked hand-in-hand with NCSL for nearly 30 years. He was instrumental in the development of the Bureau's redistricting data office and the implementation of the PL 94-171 law that governs census redistricting data. During his time at the Bureau, Marshall probably attended hundreds of NCSL meetings and conferences and was a constant source of information and wisdom. He must have given the "census 101" talk at least 50 times, yet he always cheerfully agreed to do it when called upon. Marshall was a leading authority on redistricting in the United States and was always available to legislators and legislative staff who had questions about the census or redistricting. And he never failed to look out for the interests of legislatures within the Bureau. -- Read Tim's whole post --> The Thicket at State Legislatures: NCSL loses a Friend

I first met Marshall when I was going to NCSL meetings on redistricting. I came away from hearing him thinking that the Census Bureau was one of the friendliest federal agencies. We once had a long talk as we sat waiting for our delayed plane in an airport somewhere. We talked about work, our families, how we got into what we were doing, and so on. He was a great guy to sit and talk to.

My condolences to his family and friends. But I am sure Marshall is already organizing the Great Census in the Sky.

October 8, 2009

Alabama: S. Ala. candidate claims fraud in his primary loss

The Mobile Press-Register reports: A candidate for the state House of Representatives who lost a primary election last month by margin of 80 percent to 20 percent has asked officials to investigate what he contends was a conspiracy to steal the election.

Ozelle Hubert sent letters alleging election fraud to everyone from Clarke County's probate judge to the president of the United States. ...

Primary voters were intimidated and denied the right to vote, while community leaders were offered bribes to support Beech, Hubert alleges. -- Read the whole story --> Defeated primary candidate claims election fraud -

October 3, 2009

Alabama: Autauga Co. judge orders registration of rejected applicant

The Prattville Progress reports: Autauga County Judge of Probate Al Booth granted this week a request for summary judgment from an 18-year-old woman whose voter registration applica­tion was denied in July, and ordered the county's board of registrars to immedi­ately add the woman's name to the coun­ty's list of registered voters.

Booth's decree brought to a close a controversial rejection by registrars of a voter application form filed by Jasmine Dent, a resident student at Tuskegee Uni­versity who moved from Millbrook to Prattville shortly before she started classes.

When Dent attempted on July 6 to reg­ister to vote here, she inadvertently put her Elmore County address on the origi­nal application, then wadded the erro­neous registration form and tossed it into a trash can at the board of registrars office.

She completed a second form, provid­ing the correct residency information, but Registrar Bobby Wise retrieved the original and noted on the second form that the document should not be approv­ed because it was "fraudulent," although he refused to specify upon what grounds his decision was based. Fellow registrar Joan Hamburger also signed off on the denial. -- Read the whole story --> :: Judge: Add woman to voter rolls

October 2, 2009

Germany's election results give an unproportional Bundestag

Renard Sexton writes on Five Thirty about the recent German election: In 2009, however, the clash between district-based seats and the overall popular vote (done by party list) resulted in a significant shift in the allocation of Bundestag seats -- almost enough to change the result. -- Read the whole story --> FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Proportional Voting? Well, Kinda

Alabama: Pike County Commission contest overturns winner

The Troy Messenger reports: After nearly a year in office, Pike County Commissioner Karen Berry has been ordered to vacate her seat.

Berry was declared the winner of the District 6 spot in the November 2008 election, victorious by just a six-vote margin.

But, her opponent Oren Fannin filed suit in December 2008, alleging her win came with illegal votes. After a long battle, Fannin received his desired verdict Thursday. ...

Judge Joel Holley, who presided over the case, ruled Thursday declaring Fannin the winner of the 2008 election, ordering him to take office and Berry to vacate her seat. His ruling said 10 votes were cast illegally for Berry in the election. -- Read the whole story --> Troy Messenger | Fannin declared District 6 winner