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

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December 25, 2009

Alabama; 2 GOP reps to introduce bills to reform campaign finance

The Huntsville Times reports: Campaign reporting by public officials included in package

Two area Republican legislators said Wednesday they will sponsor a package of bills in the 2010 session aimed at raising the bar of transparency in state government and elections, and among public officials. ...

The bills included in the package would: ...

Ban transfers among political action committees and also among principal campaign committees.

Require campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state to include the occupation and employer of donors giving $100 or more to a campaign.

Require last-minute campaign contributions be electronically filed with the secretary of state's office for public disclosure immediately before an election. The legislation would also require all campaign and PAC reports to be included in a searchable database available to the public via the Internet. ...

Ban candidates who fail to file campaign finance reports from seeking office again. -- Read the whole article --> Orr, Ball to sponsor reform bills -

December 23, 2009

California: somehow pols are evading the campaign finance laws. Who'd a thunk it?

From a press release of the Center for Governmental Studies: Loopholes, Tricks and End Runs: Evasions of Campaign Finance Laws, and a Model Law to Block Them, a new report issued today by the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS), concludes that while many campaign finance reforms have taken some of the negative influences of money out of electoral and governmental processes, they have been undermined by “loopholes” in existing laws that have allowed candidates and elected officials to raise money far in excess of existing contribution limits.

Loopholes, Tricks and End Runs describes “legal defense funds,” “charitable fundraising,” “political party fundraising,” “reimbursed travel,” “candidate-controlled ballot measure committees” and other devices that politicians use to collect large, and often undisclosed, payments from moneyed donors. The report recommends a comprehensive a model law to plug these loopholes and control the flow of money into politics.

Current campaign finance laws assume that these types of payments to candidates and elected officials are substantively different from the money politicians receive through regulated campaign committees, that they don’t unduly influence their recipients, and that they can be made in addition to the limits placed on normal campaign contributions.

ACORN has not broken federal laws, House Judiciary Committee says

Politico reports: A Congressional Research Service report commissioned by the House Judiciary Committee says ACORN hasn?t violated any federal regulations the last five years.

The report, released by Judiciary Chairman John Conyers? (D-Mich.) staff Tuesday evening, also reports that the undercover filmmakers that allegedly caught employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now breaking the law may have violated state law in their filming operation.

Separately Tuesday, a New York federal judge rejected a motion from the Justice Department to reconsider a decision that ruled a bill that stopped funding for ACORN as an unconstitutional bill of attainder.

The CRS report is part of a slew of government inquests into the group, which was swept up in a number of embarrassing situations in the last several months. The Government Accountability Office recently opened its own report and Republican Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Steve King of Iowa have led the charge in demanding more investigations and hearings into the group. -- Read the whole report --> CRS report: ACORN didn't break law - -

December 22, 2009

GAO releases report on DOJ under Bush

The Government Accountability Office has released a 180-page report on the enforcement efforts of the Justice Department during fiscal years 2001-07. The summary on the Voting Section says:

From fiscal years 2001 through 2007, the Voting Section was responsible for enforcing federal statutes that protect the voting rights of racial and language minorities, disabled and illiterate persons, and overseas and military personnel. During the 7-year period, the Section initiated more matters (367 of 442) and cases (39 of 56) under the Voting Rights Act than the other statutes it enforced, and primarily on behalf of language minority groups (246 of 367 matters and 30 of 56 cases). According to aggregate time data for the 7-year period, the Voting Section spent the greatest total percentage of time (52 percent) on administrative reviews of proposed changes in the voting practices and procedures of certain jurisdictions covered under section 5 of the VRA, such as a proposed redistricting plan––which would make changes to the geographic boundaries of voting districts––or the relocation of a polling place, as compared with cases (33 percent) or matters (14 percent).

Read or download the report --> U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Information on Employment Litigation, Housing and Civil Enforcement, Voting, and Special Litigation Sections’ Enforcement Efforts from Fiscal Years 2001 through 2007

December 16, 2009

New Book on the VRA and Language Minorities

James Tucker's new book, The Battle over Bilingual Ballots: Language Minorities and Political Access Under the Voting Rights Act has been published by Ashgate. For information on the book, including a table of contents, preface, and index (you can give it the old Washington-once-over to see if you are listed in the index), go here. There is also a discount link there, as well.

December 15, 2009

Cedar Bluff: long-running election contest over, council members to be seated

The Post reports: It took over 16 months to seat them, but the Cedar Bluff Town Council finally has three new members, as of last week. Candidates Evan Smith, Jack Bond, and Mark Hicks will join Lenora McWhorter, also recently elected, and Leatha Harp on the five-member Council.

Evan Smith defeated incumbent Billie Jean Burkhalter by 11 votes for the District 1 seat. In District 3, longtime town official Martha Baker -- who has served as mayor and on the Town Council in the past -- was defeated in her bid to return to the Council. In District 4, sheriff's deputy Mark Hicks defeated Tammy Crane, 55-45.

Election results are scheduled to be verified Dec. 15 at 11:45 a.m. at the Town Hall.

The town's municipal election was originally held on Aug. 28, 2008. But mayoral candidate Jimmy Wallace -- who finished third in the initial voting -- challenged the results, claiming over 30 absentee ballots were improperly handled by town officials or marked by someone other than the voter for whom the ballot was originally intended. -- Read the whole story --> The Post Online - Cedar Bluff election results (finally) in

December 11, 2009

"Hear that giant sucking sound?"

That's all of your time being sucked away as you delight in using Dave's Redistricting App

December 1, 2009

GAO study on voting in long-term care facilties

The Government Accountability Office has issued a report entitled, "ELDERLY VOTERS: Information on Promising Practices Could Strengthen the Integrity of the Voting Process in Long-term Care Facilities." The summary includes the following:

Localities also used a variety of actions to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents, including some that may decrease the likelihood of fraud and undue influence. In our survey, 78 of the 92 localities reported taking actions to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents. The most common actions included supporting facility staff in assisting residents with the absentee or early voting process, including providing staff with early and absentee voting information or guidance. Localities also reported providing services directly to residents. For example, close to one-half of localities we surveyed brought election officials to facilities to assist with the voting process. The seven localities we visited prior to the November 2008 federal election used a range of strategies to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents, including coordination with facility staff and other stakeholders; the deployment of election teams to facilities; and implementation of procedures to protect and ensure voting integrity, such as requiring bipartisan voting assistance and signed affidavits to document voting assistance.

For the whole report, go to d106.pdf (application/pdf Object)