Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: March 2010 Archives

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March 21, 2010

A better money-politics tool

From the website:, the award-winning nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization dedicated to illuminating the connection between money and politics, has launched a new web site which shines the light of transparency and accountability in powerful ways as never before.

The new site is being launched during Sunshine Week, a nonpartisan, national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. users will find on the new site robust tools to

* illuminate how money aligns with votes
* reveal data on individual legislators and how much money they have received from industry and organizations
* expose specific contributions to persons, by parties, by committee, and within date ranges

and important and vital features including

* a new U.S. Congress research blog
* a powerful search engine
-- New Web Site Reveals Money and Politics Links in New Ways | - Money and Politics

March 20, 2010

Money & politics -- a new resource

GovTrack Insider reports: A long-stand­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al de­bate, dat­ing to at least the 1960s in its cur­rent form, resur­faced Tues­day af­ter­noon in the House Ju­di­cia­ry Com­mit­tee’s Sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion, Civil Rights and Civil Lib­er­ties. Do states’ rights su­per­sede the im­per­a­tive for sub­stan­tive equal pro­tec­tion under the law? Fol­low­ing the Civil Rights move­ment, it has been gen­er­al­ly ac­cept­ed that civil rights are more im­por­tant in all but con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist cir­cles. But when ap­plied to laws deny­ing the vote to ex-of­fend­ers, the issue has not been so sim­ple.

The back­drop for this de­bate was a new bill in­tro­duced by Ju­di­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. John Cony­ers, H.R. 3335: Democ­ra­cy Restora­tion Act of 2009 (“to se­cure the Fed­er­al vot­ing rights of per­sons who have been re­leased from in­car­cer­a­tion”). Since Congress is un­der­stood to have gen­er­al ju­ris­dic­tion to be able to set the guide­lines for the elec­tion of fed­er­al can­di­dates, it nat­u­ral­ly can pre­vent states from plac­ing ob­sta­cles to vot­ing de­signed to dis­en­fran­chise a par­tic­u­lar racial, eth­nic, or eco­nom­ic group.

The ef­fect of state laws deny­ing vot­ing rights to ex-felons is dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly harm­ful to African-Amer­i­cans, said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA3). Scott, a co-spon­sor of the bill, chaired the sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing (in the place of long­time New York City Rep. Jer­rold Nadler (D-NY8), who did not at­tend for rea­sons not open­ly ev­i­dent). Scott added that such ef­fects are so detri­men­tal as to ef­fec­tive­ly dis­en­fran­chise en­tire African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties. In­deed, ac­cord­ing to Scott, the amount of African-Amer­i­cans with­out the right to vote is seven times the av­er­age for Cau­casians. -- Read the whole article --> H.R. 3335 addresses one person one ... - GovTrack Insider

March 19, 2010

Google-powered elections

Marketplace reports: Welcome to the world of Google-powered elections. The company calls that tactic a network blast. In Massachusetts, Willington says those blasts cost about $25,000 a day. Far less than TV and worth every penny.

WILLINGTON: People think Google is a search engine, that's just one part of it. It's the new TV. It's not a niche media market anymore, it is mass media.

Most political campaigns spend at most 3 to 4 percent of their budget on online ads. The Brown campaign spent almost 10 percent -- about $250,000. It's the biggest success so far in Google's campaign to rule the online political advertising business. In 2007, the company started a small team to help politicians tweak their messages online. -- Read or listen to the whole story --> A future with Google-powered elections | Marketplace From American Public Media

March 4, 2010

How the VRA dodged a bullet

Jeffrey Rosen writes in The New Republic about the NAMUDNO case: According to a source who was briefed on the deliberations in the case, Anthony Kennedy was initially ready to join Roberts and the other conservatives in issuing a sweeping 5-4 decision, striking down the Voting Rights Act on constitutional grounds. But the four liberal justices threatened to write a strong dissent that would have accused the majority of misconstruing landmark precedents about congressional power. What happened next is unclear, but the most likely possibilities are either that Kennedy got cold feet or that Roberts backed down. The Voting Rights Act survived, but what looked from the outside like an act of judicial statesmanship by Roberts may have in fact been a strategic retreat. Moreover, rather than following the principled alternative suggested by David Souter at the oral argument--holding that the people who were challenging the Voting Rights Act had no standing to bring the lawsuit--Roberts opted to rewrite the statute in a way that Congress never intended. That way, Roberts was still able to express his constitutional doubts about the law-as well as his doubts about landmark Supreme Court precedents from the civil rights era, which he mischaracterized and seemed ready to overrule.
-- Read the whole article --> Roberts Versus Roberts | The New Republic