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

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August 30, 2011

Lee County Commission decides not to redistrict, based on faulty understanding of +/-5%

The Opelika-Auburn News reports: The Lee County Commission discussed using the 2010 census data to change their respective district lines, but took no action during their regular meeting Monday.

Lee County Commission Chairman Bill English provided census data showing the current districts. An average share of 20 percent of the county?s population is needed in each one of the five districts, but the law allows a plus or minus difference of 5 percent.

Without changing the present district map, the data shows a difference in each district from the average of 20 percent and that they all fall within the 15 to 25 percent range:

Commission District 1 has a 19 percent share;
Commission District 2 has a 21.5 percent share;
Commission District 3 has a 22.9 percent share;
Commission District 4 has a 17.8 percent share; and
Commission District 5 has an 18.8 percent share.
-- Read the whole story --> Lee County Commission to keep current district lines |

August 28, 2011

Alabama anti-immigration law's voter-registration provisions

In a few days, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn will grant or deny a preliminary injunction against numerous provisions of the "Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act." Three suits by a coalition of organizations and individuals, the federal government, and Bishops of the Episcopal, United Methodist, and Catholic Churches challenged numerous provisions of the Act. But I did not find a challenge to Section 29 (see page 61 of the Scribd copy of the Act) which deals with voter registration.

I only want to look at the sloppy drafting of the Act. Well, actually, Section 29 is drafted in a way superior to most Alabama legislation. Most bills seems to be drafted with extremely long sections with a variety of topics in each section. Section 29 actually has a structure that aids -- rather than impedes -- reading it. There are three provisions I want to point out as indicating the author(s) of the bill either did not understand Alabama governmental structure or did not understand federal law.

First, subsections (b) and (c) refer to "the county election officer." I have only been handling election-related work for 35+ years, but I have never seen such a term used in Alabama before. Does this actually mean the county board of registrars? Clearly, this was drafted outside of Alabama for some other state.

Second, subsection (k)(1) refers to the "driver's license or nondriver's identification card issued by the division of motor vehicles." Alabama has a DMV in the Department of Revenue, but it issues automobile tags. To get a driver's license, Alabamians go to the Department of Public Safety. Again, this is a sign of non-Alabama origin of the Act.

Third, the Act creates a "State Election Board" composed of the Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State to hear applications from those who do not possess the documentation the Act requires to prove American citizenship. If the Board rules against the applicant, the applicant may "institut[e] an action under 8 U.S.C. § 1503." That federal code section allows actions to be filed in certain cases "against the head of such department or independent agency for a judgment declaring him to be a national of the United States."

I believe that provision should be read in conjunction with 8 U.S.C. § 1104, which authorizes the Secretary of State "to confer or impose upon any employee of the United States, with the consent of the head of the department or independent establishment under whose jurisdiction the employee is serving, any of the powers, functions, or duties conferred or imposed by this chapter" -- and "this chapter" is Chapter 12, where § 1503 is also located. One would have to tie the Code in knots to decide that the State Election Board is a "department or independent agency" within the meaning of § 1503.

If some person has to bring suit to determine that he or she is an American citizen, should the State of Alabama be allowed to object on the grounds that § 1503 does not allow for such suits, or should the Act be taken as a waiver of the State's objection?

August 25, 2011

Tuscaloosa Co Commission approves redistricting plan

The Tuscaloosa News reports: County Commissioner Reginald Murray said he would file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice opposing the redistricting plan adopted by the Tuscaloosa County Commission on Wednesday.

Commissioners voted 3-1 to adopt a plan presented by County Planning Director Farrington Snipes. Murray cast the lone vote against it.

Murray declined to say why he opposed the plan. ...

Most of the changes in the districts occurred in the areas in and near Tuscaloosa and Northport. It was necessary to add voters to Murray's District 4 and take some out of Commissioner Bobby Miller's District 3 to equalize the district populations. -- Read the whole article --> Tuscaloosa County redistricting plan approved |

August 23, 2011

Montgomery County considering redistricting plan

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery County commissioners have found themselves split along racial lines on a proposed reapportionment plan, with the black commissioners unwilling to approve a plan that does not leave three of the five districts with a strong black majority.

Under the proposed plan, Districts 1, 2 and 4 would have black populations of 56 percent, 79 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Commission Chairman Elton Dean said he believes 56 percent is too low and 79 percent is too high for districts in the Montgomery County of today. ...

Montgomery County is now about 55 percent black, about 40 percent white and about 5 percent of other races, according to the latest U.S. Census data. ...

Under the proposed plan, District 1 would be 56 percent black in population but its voting-age population for black residents would be 39 percent. Currently, District 1 is about 58 percent black with about 41 percent of that population over the age of 18.

Meanwhile, the white population would be 39 percent with about 33 percent of the population of voting age. Currently, District 1 is 38 percent white and 32 percent of its population of white residents are above the age of 18. -- Read the whole story --> County officials split over districts | The Montgomery Advertiser |

August 20, 2011

Montgomery mayor presents redistricting plan with 5 black-majority districts

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange presented his much-anticipated reapportionment plan Friday after­noon, even as the Alabama Democratic Conference brought forth a new argument on why Tuesday's city elections should be delayed until after reapportion­ment had taken place.

The proposed reapportionment plan calls for five majority black districts, three majority white dis­tricts and one racially complex district. Under the mayor's proposal, District 8 would become the most racially diverse district in the city with the largest groups being blacks (49.8 percent), whites (42 per­cent) and Asians (5.6 percent).

District 9 would have the largest population of Asians -- 7.6 percent -- but it would still clearly be a majority white district with 68 percent of the popula­tion being white. ...

This change is due to dras­tic shifts in population over the past decade, with the city of Montgomery now 56.6 percent black. Montgomery is 37.3 percent white and 2.2 percent Asian. ...

When the districts were reapportioned in 2000, four majority black districts were drawn. At the time District 7 was drawn with a 48.1 per­cent black population. Mont­gomery's population was 50 percent black, 47.7 percent white and 2.2 percent "other" in 2000.

This reapportionment plan has not been approved and will not be used for the Tues­day election. The City Coun­cil has six months to act on the proposal. -- Read the whole story --> Mayor reveals redistricting proposal; ADC tries to delay city elections again | The Montgomery Advertiser |

August 10, 2011

Autauga Co. redistricting approved without controversy

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The Autauga County Commission unanimously approved, with little discussion and no public input, its proposed redistricting plan Monday night.

Only 15 people attended a public hearing on the newly drawn commission and school board districts. All but two were elected or appointed officials who helped come up with the new districts, and the other two made no comments for or against the plan..

Most of the hearing was taken up by Myles Mayberry of Alabama State University's Center for Leadership and Public Policy, the organization that drew and plotted the new county map for the commission and school board.

Mayberry explained the reasoning behind establishment of the new voting boundaries and the effort that was made to maintain at least one district in which minority citizens were the majority. -- Read the whole story --> Autauga redistricting plan approved | The Montgomery Advertiser |

August 9, 2011

Are blacks "packed" into 2 Montgomery County districts?

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The black population in Montgomery County is significantly higher than it was 10 years ago, with blacks now the majority, and some are questioning why the county's swing district, District 1, still remains a swing district.

Two organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Alabama Democratic Conference, are arguing that this should no longer be the case. In their own way, the two said the same thing: The ACLU believes District 1 should have "an effective black majority" while the ADC wants it to be a "safe black (majority) district."

The ACLU believes the commission is attempting to minimize the voice of black voters by creating two districts with a high population of black voters, two others with a high population of white voters and one that might have a black majority but could possibly keep white representation.

Joe Reed, executive directive, put it more bluntly.

Saying that the "the day of reckoning is here," Reed accused the commissioners of "packing the blacks" into two districts when they should be more evenly distributed among districts. -- Read the whole story --> Groups concerned about swing voting district in Montgomery County | The Montgomery Advertiser |

August 6, 2011

"Five Republican Party officials got $38,000 bonuses after $100,000 PAC donation from Cooper"

The Huntsville Times reports: Two days after Monica Cooper personally donated $100,000 to a Republican political action committee, five party officials received bonuses from the PAC of $38,000 each.

A second Republican PAC reimbursed Cooper, prompting state Democratic Party Chair Mark Kennedy to complain last week that the transaction and several other smaller ones violated the state's new law banning PAC-to-PAC transfers.

Before Cooper's contribution, there wasn't enough money in the 136 Years PAC to make those payments, according to campaign finance reports filed by the PAC.

The 136 Years PAC received the contribution from Cooper, then a GOP Senate employee, on Dec. 20, 2010, according to records in the Alabama Secretary of State's Office.

Two days later, the $38,000 checks were issued to John Ross, the party's executive director and the chair of the 136 Years PAC; Philip Bryan, party communications director; Kate Anderson and Sidney Rue, finance co-directors for the party; and Michael Joffrion, the party's political director. -- Read the whole story --> Five Republican Party officials got $38,000 bonuses after $100,000 PAC donation from Cooper |

August 1, 2011

Alabama Dems have found more last-minute PAC-to-PAC transfers

The Prattville Progress reports: The former chair of a Republican-leaning PAC said Thursday that a PAC controlled by House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, made a transfer to his PAC days after the Legislature passed a ban on the practice and hours before Gov. Bob Riley signed the ban into law.

The news came after the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party accused Republican legislative leaders of breaking the law against PAC-to-PAC transfers, which a spokesman for Hubbard vigorously rejected.

"Not only did the PAC the Speaker was affiliated with abide by the law, but it disclosed every penny," said Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Hubbard. "It was all out there, disclosed for the people to see."

NETPAC sent $5,000 to 136 Years PAC on December 20, 2010, according to John Ross, a former Alabama Republican Party executive director who chaired the commitee. Ross said the transfer -- made days after the Hubbard-led House approved the PAC-to-PAC ban -- paid bills as the PAC was being terminated.

"We accepted that transaction the morning of the 20th," Ross said in an interview. "It was perfectly legal." -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Democrats say GOP leadership violated PAC-to-PAC ban | The Prattville Progress |

"Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe"

The Birmingham News reports: The vote-buying trial that could be nearing an end in federal court here has cast a spotlight on the line between supporting state lawmakers with campaign contributions and bribing them, say lawmakers outside the trial and others.

They said the trial has raised the question of whether some lawmakers crossed the line into bribery by promising to vote for a gambling bill in return for contributions, and whether others crossed the line by offering contributions in return for a vote for the bill.

Two state senators, two former state senators, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, two lobbyists and two other people have been on trial since June, accused of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with gambling legislation debated in the Legislature last year.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys rested their cases last week. Closing arguments are expected Wednesday.

Observers say the trial has provided yet more proof that politicians actively seek campaign contributions to buy the TV ads and other tools that build name recognition and improve election chances. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe |

Accusation: GOP groups funnelled PAC-to-PAC money through individual

The State Column reported on Thursday: Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, Judge Mark Kennedy, today presented evidence of another illegal Republican PAC-to-PAC transfer, this time implicating Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner and House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Campaign finance records presented by Kennedy reveal that 136 Years PAC?organized by the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) under then chairman Rep. Mike Hubbard?received a $100,000 contribution on December 20, 2010, from Monica Cooper of 1300 County Road 77, Clanton, Alabama. Cooper?s contribution was labeled as an individual contribution by 136 Years PAC.

Just two days later, on December 22, 2010, a $100,000 expenditure was recorded as a ?reimbursement? to Monica Cooper by the New Alabama Leadership PAC. According to Secretary of State records, Cooper is the treasurer and Senate Majority Leader Waggoner is the chairperson of New Alabama Leadership PAC. New Alabama Leadership PAC serves as the fundraising vehicle for the Senate Republican Caucus. -- Read the whole story --> Republican Party Uses Individual Contribution to Violate PAC-to-PAC Ban | The State Column