Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: February 2011 Archives

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February 28, 2011

Alabama: AEA sues over payroll deduction of dues

Courthouse News Service reports: Alabama's lame-duck governor called a special session at which he rammed through an unconstitutional law, under the guise of "ethics reform," which prohibits teachers from allowing automatic payroll deductions for union dues, and makes union members criminally liable if such dues or PAC contributions are used for "phone calling for any political purpose," or "distributing political literature of any type," the Alabama Education Association claims in Huntsville Federal Court.
The AEA and its political action committee, A-Vote, sued Alabama's new governor, Robert Bentley, who also serves as president of the State Board of Education. Individual teachers joined as plaintiffs and named top state officials as co-defendants, including the state superintendent of education, the comptroller, the state finance director, two county district attorneys and three local school boards. Read the whole story --> Courthouse News Service

February 20, 2011

Shelby County, Alabama: the supplemental briefing

The Birmingham News reports: A decision on whether key sections of the Voting Rights Act remain constitutional 47 years after it was passed may hinge on whether it was appropriate for Congress not to update which parts of the country still need close federal oversight of their elections.

Although the lawyers finished arguing the case earlier this month, the federal judge asked for more written comments on the specific issue of coverage formula, or the method used in 1965 to determine which states were the worst threats to minority voting rights.

It signals that U.S. District Judge John Bates is focused on Shelby County's contention that the law's 2006 renewal by Congress is invalid because it relied on outdated voting data.

Shelby County sued the U.S. Justice Department, alleging that Congress did not have enough evidence to warrant a 25-year extension of the law that requires all or part of 16 states -- including Alabama -- to ask permission before making any voting-related changes. The Alabama case is widely viewed as a contender to return the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. -- Read the whole story --> Shelby County's lawsuit over the Voting Rights Act could turn on 2006 renewal |

February 18, 2011

Alabama: Census numbers due next week

The Gadsden Times reports: The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday said it will release Alabama?s 2010 population numbers next week, kicking off the legislative process to redraw federal and state election districts.

Redistricting is one of the most political of events for lawmakers.

With Republicans solidly in control of the House, Senate and governor?s office, the GOP has the opportunity to really shaft Democrats by shifting voters around to the party?s advantage.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said he hopes that won?t be the case.

"If you look at the statewide election, 40 percent of the state is still Democrat and 60 percent is Republican," Ford said. "I believe Speaker Hubbard will keep his word and not be vindictive, and I believe President Marsh won?t, and we'll go to 1 percent deviation."
-- Read the whole story --> Census information release will begin reapportionment |

February 13, 2011

Alabama: Jerome Gray's quiet civil-right career

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Unlike his contemporaries who took to the streets to pro­test racial inequities, Jerome Gray opted to use his organiza­tional skills and quiet persever­ance to do the same thing.

In fact, the 72-year-old former field director for the Alabama Democratic Conference may have done more for racial equality at the ballot box than thousands of vocal protesters.

He did it by using the court system instead of the streets to work toward single member voting districts as well as black registrars and black poll work­ers.

Each of the legal challenges ended successfully, but few out­side of Alabama's small civil rights community are familiar with the name or, for that mat­ter, the fame of one of the most important architects of those campaigns. -- Read the whole story --> Voting rights activist now ready to finally finish book | | Montgomery Advertiser

February 9, 2011

One day, Title 52 USC

The Office of Law Revision Counsel reports on the codification of "voting and elections" laws: The bill gathers provisions related to voting and elections and restates these provisions as a new positive law title of the United States Code. The new positive law title replaces the former provisions, which are repealed by the bill.

The bill was prepared by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel as part of the Office's ongoing responsibility under section 205(c) of House Resolution No. 988, 93d Congress, as enacted into law by Public Law 93-554 (2 U.S.C. 285b), ``[t]o prepare, and submit to the Committee on the Judiciary one title at a time, a complete compilation, restatement, and revision of the general and permanent laws of the United States''.

All changes in existing law made by the bill are purely technical in nature. The bill was prepared in accordance with the statutory standard for codification legislation, which is that the restatement of existing law shall conform to the understood policy, intent, and purpose of the Congress in the original enactments, with such amendments and corrections as will remove ambiguities, contradictions, and other imperfections.

The bill was delivered to the Committee on the Judiciary on February 27, 2009. The bill has not yet been introduced.

The Title 52 Codification page includes a copy of the draft bill.

February 7, 2011

"Drawing Democracy Fairly"

In commemoration of the 46th Anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, please join us in Selma on Saturday, March 5th from 9:30-11:00 for an important panel, "Drawing Democracy Fairly: Minority Voting Rights On the Eve of Redistricting."

Featuring civil rights legal guardian, John Doar, Former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1965-1967, this lively discussion will focus on what's at stake for African Americans and other communities of color in the next round of redistricting and the continuing need for the protections of the Voting Rights Act.

An informational flyer about the panel is attached. The event is free and open to the public.

Alabama: gambling-related PACs closing up

The Birmingham News reports: A network of political action committees has been partially dismantled, months after helping to funnel nearly $6.3 million from gambling interests into 2010 political campaigns, financial disclosure forms show.

Since the Nov. 2 election, 50 PACs that handled money from state casino and racetrack owners have been shut down, state records show.

All were set up September 2009 through September 2010, funded mainly by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and by Birmingham and Shorter track owner Milton McGregor, records show.

Those committees were among the 144 PACs that handled political contributions originating from the Poarch Band, McGregor, Eutaw's Greenetrack and the Country Crossing resort near Dothan that briefly included a casino, a Birmingham News analysis of disclosures shows. ...

With the recent ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers, the trend of starting temporary PACs to exclusively handle special-interest money is expected to expand. -- Read the whole article --> Alabama gambling money network dissolves |

February 3, 2011

Shelby County: VRA challenge argued

The Birmingham News reports: Lawyers for Shelby County asked a federal judge in Washington today to declare two key parts of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional because Congress relied on old voting statistics when it extended the historic civil rights law for another 25 years.

The case, likely to wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, attracted a big crowd as lawyers debated whether certain parts of the country, including Alabama, would backslide into endangering the rights of minority voters if the Justice Department were no longer looking over their shoulder. All or part of 16 states have been subject to federal oversight since 1965, and the formula for how those states were chosen was based on voter registration and turnout statistics from that time. -- Read the whole story --> Shelby County voting rights case debated in Washington courtroom |