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

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October 30, 2010

Alabama: suit to remove Bentley from ballot dismissed

The Birmingham News reports: A lawsuit aimed at tossing Republican Robert Bentley off next week's general election ballot was itself tossed Friday by a Jefferson County judge.

Circuit Judge Nicole "Nikki" Still ruled that Alabama law does not give her jurisdiction to remove Bentley from the ballot or jurisdiction to halt next Tuesday's election while a replacement for Bentley is found.

The lawsuit was brought by former Birmingham City Council member Dr. Jimmy Blake.

Blake had contended that Bentley had knowingly violated the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act by failing to disclose on financial reports filed July 8 that the Alabama Education Association had contributed almost $22,000 to his campaign by picking up the cost of a series of automatic telephone messages. Bentley placed the messages to a half-million would-be voters days before the July 13 GOP runoff election between himself and Bradley Byrne. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit to boot Alabama gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley off ballot dismissed | al.com

Alabama: is write-in campaign a dirty trick?

The Mobile Press Register reports: Republican Robert Bentley's gubernatorial campaign said Friday that his Democratic opponent, Ron Sparks, is behind web sites promoting write-in votes for Bentley's former GOP rival, Bradley Byrne.

"This is an obvious attempt to suppress Republican turnout," said Angi Smith, Bentley's campaign manager. "It is the latest in a long list of deceptive acts by our opponent."

Sparks spokesman Taylor Bright vigorously denied the charge, calling it a “set-up” and a “desperate, dirty trick” by the Bentley campaign.

“We had nothing to do with this,” Bright said in an e-mail. -- Read the whole story --> Bentley camp: Sparks behind Byrne write-in site | al.com

Montgomery AL: burglars steal computers from GOP

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Unknown suspects broke into the Montgomery County Republican headquarters over­night Thursday, stealing nine laptop computers that could contain sensitive information, and scrawling "Vote Dem" on two walls.

The last volunteer left at about 8:15 p.m. Thursday and when people arrived at 8 a.m. Friday they found that someone had used a crowbar to open the back door and steal nine com­puters, said Pat Wilson, chair­woman of the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee.

She said they hope the police can recover the lost computers.

Wilson said she was not aware of any other items that were stolen and that she honest­ly feels "it was a break-in and they found the computers."

But, four days before the election, she said the break-in was suspicious. She said they have been at the location "for a couple of years with no prob­lem." -- Read the whole story --> Computers stolen during break-in at county GOP HQ | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

October 29, 2010

DOJ to monitor polls in 18 states

From a Justice Department press release: The Justice Department announced today that its Civil Rights Division plans to deploy more than 400 federal observers and department personnel to 30 jurisdictions in 18 states for the Nov. 2, 2010, general election.

Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, under the federal voting rights laws, the Civil Rights Division is charged with and committed to protecting the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day. -- Read the whole thing --> Justice Department to Monitor Polls in 18 States on Election Day

DOJ Voting Section advertises for analysts

The Voting Section has today posted ads seeking to fill additional civil rights analyst positions. Click on the links below for the ads; they describe the procedures for applying.

Ad #1 Ad #2 Ad #3 Ad #4

Sumter Co., AL: high number of absentee-ballot requests

The Tuscaloosa News reports: West Alabama's absentee ballot hot spot may have shifted from Greene and Hale counties to Sumter County this year and Sumter County Circuit Clerk Edmond Bell wants something done about it.

“There have been a lot of obvious irregularities and there have been things pointed out to me,” Bell said. “It’s undermining the one man, one vote principle. You’ve got people controlling multiple ballots when they go out and solicit people to vote absentee.”

As of Thursday morning, the Sumter County Circuit Clerk’s office had received 730 absentee ballot applications with about 100 more waiting to be processed and possibly 100 more to come in by the end of the day. The county has about 10,000 registered voters.

That means between 7 and 8 percent of the registered voters in the county are requesting absentee ballots. The state average is 3 percent of registered voters. -- Read the whole story --> Sumter sees rise in voting absentee | TuscaloosaNews.com

October 28, 2010

Alabama: Bentley returning contributions, faces suit to disqualify

AP reports that Dr. Robert Bentley has returned excess contributions to 8 corporations after a complaint from Dr. Jimmy Blake, former Birmingham city council member.

Blake has also filed suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court seeking to disqualify Bentley on the basis of his failure to report an in-kind contribution from the Alabama Education Association. The AEA made robo-calls for Bentley when he was in the Republican runoff.


Alabama: unreported funds moving from PAC to PAC

The Press Register reports: The single largest campaign contribution that state Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker got this year was a $100,000 check he accepted from a political action committee set up by his campaign spokesman.

But the original source of that money remains shrouded in a provision of state campaign finance law that critics contend is far too lax.

Records with the state Secretary of State's Office showed that Phillip Kinney, a Montgomery political consultant with deep ties to the Democratic Party, set up Premium PAC on May 21 with the stated purpose to "promote good government."

On May 25, that PAC made its $100,000 contribution to Patriot PAC. Two days later, Patriot PAC gave Parker, a Republican, $100,000, or 40 percent of all the money he raised before the June 1 GOP primary. -- Read the whole convoluted story --> Source of $100,000 contribution to Justice Tom Parker shrouded in secrecy | al.com

October 27, 2010

Pike Co, Ala: suspended sentence for election fraud

The Troy Messenger reports: Former Pike County Commissioner Karen Berry?s plea arrangement netted her a sentence without jail time for a felony conviction of absentee ballot fraud and first-degree perjury.

In a sentence handed down Tuesday by Judge Thomas Head, Berry was given two-year concurrent suspended sentences on each charge and two years? probation. She also must pay court costs and $100 in Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission Assessment, said District Attorney Gary McAliley.

Both of Berry's crimes were class C felonies, which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 for each crime. Other than these two felony convictions, McAliley said Berry's record was clean, which helped her case, McAliley said. ...

In the November 2008 general election, Berry submitted or authorized the submission of ballots she knew were improperly signed and not witnessed by a notary, according to court documents. She won the seat for County Commission against her opponent, Oren Fannin, by just six ballots. -- Read the whole story --> Berry gets suspended sentence | The Troy Messenger

Alabama: 1.1% increase in voter registration

The Gadsden Times reports: Voter registration in Alabama increased little since the summer, and it may portend an average election turnout on Tuesday.

Statewide, the number of active registered voters increased by only 1.1 percent since August, from 2.555 million to 2.583 million, according to the secretary of state’s voter registration office. ...

Slight interest in new registrations may predict voter turnout for Tuesday’s general election, voter registrars said. -- Read the whole story --> Light voter registration indicates low turnout in Alabama | GadsdenTimes.com

Alabama: Justice Tom Parker demands removal of slanderous ad about his taxes

The Mobile Press Register reports: Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker today demanded that his Democratic opponent pull a "slanderous and defamatory" TV ad that claims Parker does not pay his taxes.

The ad for Mac Parsons, a judge in the Bessemer division of Jefferson County Circuit Court, accuses Parker of having "thousands in tax liens" and "years of unpaid taxes" while he has served on the state's highest court.

An attorney for Parker, Al Agricola, sent a letter today to Parsons, threatening to sue his campaign for slander and file charges with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. ...

Party officials said the liens were placed against the estate of Parker’s father, Thomas F. Parker III.

But Parsons’ campaign said Parker is responsible for liens filed against the estate because he was the executor and one of the beneficiaries. The justice’s father died in 1983, two decades or more before the liens were filed.

The Parsons campaign provided documentation showing federal liens totaling $5,650.10 issued in June 2003 for tax years 1999 through 2001. The federal government also issued a pair of liens in October 2005 totaling $253.04 for tax years 1997 and 2002. -- Read the whole story --> Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker demands opponent pull 'slanderous' TV ad on taxes | al.com

October 26, 2010

Alabama: Justice Tom Parker returning some of gambling-tainted contributions

The Mobile Press Register reports: Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker said today that he would return campaign contributions that came from a political action committee that raised its funds from gambling interests.

Parker, a Republican seeking a second term on the high court against Democratic Circuit Judge Mac Parsons, cited a Press-Register story published Sunday that traced contributions totaling $8,000 from the Step PAC to a PAC run by Parker's campaign spokesman. That PAC, Patriot PAC, passed the money along to Parker. ...

While Parker is returning the Step PAC’s funds, the Patriot PAC has taken thousands of dollars from other PACs with ties to gambling.

On the same day that the Patriot PAC received the $8,000 contribution from Step PAC, for instance, it also received an identical donation from Your PAC. Both are run by Montgomery lobbyist John Teague, who lobbies on behalf of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Tom Parker to return donation from PAC funded by gambling interests | al.com

Mobile: 6000 voters will hae to go to two polling places

Voters in Mobile's District 6 may have to go to two polling sites | al.com
The Mobile Press Register reports: About 6,000 voters in Mobile City Council District 6 will have to go to two different polling places on Nov. 2 to cast ballots for a vacant council seat as well as for governor, sheriff, state legislator and a slate of other public officials.

This is the first time that a special election for the City Council has been held on the same day as the state and national elections, said City Clerk Lisa Lambert, so voters may not be expecting to have to travel to two precincts. ...

Even those who are able to vote in both elections at the same location will receive two separate ballots and submit them to separate machines. -- Read the whole story -->

October 25, 2010

Alabama: most of Justice Bolin's money from 4 PACs

The Mobile Press Register reports: From mid-April until mid-September, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin raised $582,380 for his re-election campaign, with donations flowing from 80 different sources, according to his last two campaign finance reports.

He leaned heavily, however, on a small number of political action committees for that total. Four PACs gave $501,000, accounting for 86 percent of his haul. ...

Bolin’s last two campaign finance reports show three donations from the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee totaling $250,000. The group draws largely from a donor list made up PACs representing insurance companies, builders and other businesses. Progress PAC, which is affiliated with the Business Council of Alabama, chipped in $200,000. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Mike Bolin gets most funds from a handful of PACs | al.com

October 24, 2010

Alabama: Justice Tom Parker pulling in Democratic money

The Mobile Press Register reports: No member of the Republican-dominated Alabama Supreme Court touts his conservative credentials more than Tom Parker.

But in paying for his campaign, the darling of social conservatives and protégé of former Chief Justice Roy Moore has turned to political action committees with close ties to Democrats and gambling interests, a review of his finance reports shows. ...

Parker, who faces Democratic Circuit Judge Mac Parsons in the Nov. 2 election, has raised nearly half of his $321,125 this year from the Patriot PAC, which Chancey set up four years ago under the name Republicans for Conservative Judges. ...

Patriot PAC has raised its money from three large law firms and a collection of other PACS that get much of their funding from sources generally associated with Democrats. Its largest contributor has been Premium PAC, which was set up this year by Phillip Kinney, who had been with a prominent political consulting firm in Montgomery called the Matrix Group. The Matrix Group has worked for numerous Democratic candidates. Premium PAC contributed $100,000 to Patriot PAC. -- Read the whole article --> Alabama Supreme Court: Tom Parker takes unorthodox fund-raising approach | al.com

October 23, 2010

Alabama: Sparks wants special session on ethics

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Democrat Ron Sparks said earlier in the week that he will call a special session on ethics. He said it will come after he calls a special session to expand, tax and regulate gambling. Sparks wants the first session to start the day after the inauguration in January. Read the whole story --> Candidates for governor propose ethics sessions | TuscaloosaNews.com

Alabama: Bentley proposes special session on ethics

The Birmingham News reports: Republican Robert Bentley said today that, if elected governor, he would call a special session of the Legislature to push for stronger state ethics laws. ...

In the special session, Bentley said he would propose new laws that would:

--Ban PAC-to-PAC transfers. The practice of transferring campaign contribution from one political action committee to another makes it difficult to determine the source of a candidate's money. As a member of the House of Representative the past seven years, Bentley has voted in favor of a proposal to do that.

--Seek to eliminate the ability of lobbyists to entertain legislators, or limiting it by capping what they are allowed to spend entertaining lawmakers, or requiring legislators to report every penny spent on them.

--Requiring candidates to report weekly all contributions given to them, preferably online for the public to see. -- Read the whole article --> Robert Bentley would push for special session on ethics law | al.com

October 22, 2010

Alabama: Blake calls for removal of Bentley from ballot

The Birmingham News reports: Jimmy Blake, a former Birmingham City Council member, called a press conference this afternoon to say he was filing a formal complaint with Alabama Attorney General Troy King seeking Bentley's removal from the Nov. 2 ballot.

Blake alleges that Bentley knowingly failed to comply with the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act when his campaign accepted an "in-kind" contribution from the AEA.

That contribution came in the form of a series of phone call blitzes that were produced by the AEA for Bentley. The "robocalls" went to more than 500,000 homes across the state during the closing days of the GOP runoff between Bradley Byrne and Bentley, an election easily won by Bentley.

Bentley also has acknowledged this week that AEA -- long associated with the Democratic Party -- contributed $150,000 into a political action committee set up to help fund his campaign. However, Bentley said he never used the money. -- Read the whole story --> Former Birmingham councilman Blake files complaint seeking to remove Robert Bentley from ballot | al.com

Alabama: Senator "forgot" to file final report on PAC for 4 years

The Huntsville Times reports: Democratic State Senate candidate Jeff Enfinger has dissolved a political action committee that is at the center of a campaign finance controversy.

Enfinger sent paperwork terminating his 2006 PAC to the secretary of state's office by overnight mail Tuesday. The information was posted on the agency's website at lunchtime Wednesday.

While Enfinger says the PAC has been inactive since mid-2006, he was supposed to file a report detailing its final contributions and expenditures long before now. Conservative blogger Brian LeCompte discovered the error and filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office alleging violations of Alabama's Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Enfinger said he forgot to fill out a termination report for the PAC after deciding not to seek re-election in 2006. -- Read the whole story (with links to the PAC reports) --> Senate candidate Jeff Enfinger dissolves PAC in campaign finance controversy | al.com

October 21, 2010

Pike Co., Ala: former commissioner arrested for absentee-ballot fraud

The Troy Messenger reports: Former County Commissioner Karen Berry has been charged with voter fraud and perjury in connection with her 2008 bid for office.

Berry turned herself in to the Pike County Jail Tuesday on charges of absentee ballot fraud and first-degree perjury. According to information from the District Attorney, she has reached a plea agreement on the charges, although the agreement has yet to be presented to a judge. ...

According to information from the police report, Berry submitted or authorized the submission of ballots she knew were improperly signed and not witnessed by a notary in the November 2008 general election.

In April 2009, Berry lied in court while under oath regarding the obtaining, submitting, signing and witnessing of the ballots, the report states. -- Read the whole article --> Berry charged with vote fraud, perjury | The Troy Messenger

October 19, 2010

Weaver: what's an office of profit?

The Anniston Star reports: Weaver?s mayor and two council members are continuing a legal fight that has each side challenging the other?s right to hold office.

On Monday, lawyers for council members Jeff Clendenning and Sheila Field filed motions in response to a lawsuit Mayor Garry Bearden filed earlier this month. In that suit, the mayor alleges the council members serve in more than one ?office of profit,? which is illegal.

In order for a government job to be considered an office of profit, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities, a post must exercise power granted by the Legislature, have a fixed term and provide compensation for its holder.

Motions filed by attorneys representing Clendenning, a Calhoun County bridge inspector, and Field, an assistant district attorney for Calhoun County, stated that the council members? day jobs do not violate the rule on offices of profit, and that the case should not move forward because it is not in the best interest of the people. Read the whole story --> Anniston Star - Weaver leaders challenging each other?s right to hold off?ice

October 18, 2010

Decatur: Census data will start legal fight over change in form of government

The Decatur Daily reports: The city of Decatur is about six months from kicking off what could become a protracted legal battle to change its form of government.

With census data due to the president in January and to state governors in March, City Planner Karen Smith says she expects to receive Decatur?s demographic information in April.
Redistricting

The numbers will allow her to draw a series of redistricting plans the city needs to seek federal approval to change its form of government. If successful, a professional city manager instead of an elected mayor will run Decatur?s day-to-day business beginning in November 2012.

But it is unclear if the city can create a passable three-district plan as required by the state law that allows the system of government and still maintain its racial-minority district as required by federal voting-rights laws. Read the whole story --> Data to start legal fight - Decaturdaily.com

October 11, 2010

Alabama: Senators can use campaign funds for criminal defense

The Gadsden Times reports: The four senators who were indicted in the bingo bribery case can use their campaign money to pay their lawyers.

An attorney general’s advisory opinion from 2000 said that excess campaign funds may be used by an incumbent office holder to pay legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment if the indictment is related to the office holder’s duties.

Federal prosecutors last week alleged that 11 people, including four senators, solicited or offered bribes in exchange for votes or action on bingo legislation in the 2010 session. ...

The question is if Means or Smith lose their reelection bids on Nov. 2, can they still use their campaign funds? Same for Preuitt, who is retiring from politics and no longer will be a legislator as of 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 3.

Attorney general spokesman Chris Bence said the office hasn’t been asked if they can use their money if they no longer are state senators. Read the whole story --> Indicted senators can use campaign money for legal bills | GadsdenTimes.com

October 10, 2010

Alabama: GOP question (lack of) financial disclosures by new PAC

The Huntsville Times reports: State Republicans have raised questions about what they call a lack of financial disclosures by a political action committee linked to the Democratic Party.

The head of the Front Door Democracy PAC, however, said there's been no wrongdoing because the PAC isn't involved in campaigns.

"We're a political action committee, but we don't do any candidate-specific work or we don't give money to candidates," said Bradley Davidson, who founded the PAC, which lists its address as Homewood.

But two things about the PAC caught the eye of the state Republican Party, according to spokesman Philip Bryan. The first was the PAC's website, frontdoordemocracy.com, which boasts of ties to the Democratic Party. The second was the lack of financial disclosures with the secretary of state. Read the whole story --> Dems PAC draws questions from GOP | al.com

October 7, 2010

Bessemer, Ala: mayor fires city clerk over absentee ballots

The Birmingham News reports: Bessemer's city clerk, who is the city's election official, said today he was fired by Bessemer Mayor Ed May Monday night -- the night before today's election -- because he refused to go to a site outside of city hall to pick up some absentee ballots.

City Clerk Travis Brooks said May told him Monday to go with a police officer to pick up some absentee ballots at an off-site location, but he refused because voters are required to mail absentee ballots or hand-deliver them to city hall. Thursday was the deadline for absentee ballots to be submitted.

When Brooks refused to go off-site, the mayor fired him about 5:30 p.m., forced him to turn over his keys to the mayor and had a police officer escort him out of Bessemer city hall, Brooks said. The absentee ballots for today's election were locked in the city clerk's office, and Brooks said the mayor, who is a candidate in today's election, had the key to the office.

May, when asked this morning whether he had fired Brooks, said that was not true and that Brooks is still employed with the city. -- Read the whole article --> Bessemer city clerk claims he was fired by Mayor Ed May the night before the election | al.com

October 2, 2010

Autauga Co: convicted felon can't serve, but can't be removed from ballot

The Prattville Progress reports: Former Autauga County Coroner Willie Mack "Billy" Brown III, who was convicted in July on theft and ethics charges, cannot legally serve as county sheriff. But that doesn't mean he couldn't be elected to the office.
Advertisement

State and local elections officials confirmed Thursday that, while state law dictates that a convicted felon may not serve as a county sheriff, no such statute allows for removal of Brown's name from the November General Election ballot.

State voter registration superintendent Ed Packard said neither Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman's office, nor Autauga County's chief elections official, Probate Judge Al Booth, could legally remove Brown's name from the political menu that voters across the county will see on Nov. 2. ...

According to county election records, Brown obtained prior to June 1 enough signatures on a petition of independent candidacy to qualify for the race. That pretty much assured that Brown's name would appear on the November ballot, said Booth. -- Read the whole article --> Convicted candidate's name on ballot | prattvilleprogress.com | Prattville Progress