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

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September 25, 2011

Huntsville adopts redistricting plan

The Huntsville Times reports: A divided Huntsville City Council on Thursday approved new council and school board election lines for 2012 and beyond.

Council members Bill Kling, Will Culver and Richard Showers voted for the redistricting map drawn by the city's planning staff, but members Mark Russell and John Olshefski preferred the map submitted by Speakin' Out News columnist Jackie Reed.

The city's plan shifts Reed's College Park neighborhood near Butler High School into Showers' District 1, complicating her quest to unseat Kling, the District 4 council representative.

Reed proposed an alternate map that would have kept her home in Kling's district, along with about 330 other people living south of Holmes Avenue. -- Read the whole story --> New election map irks Huntsville City Council hopeful Jackie Reed | al.com

Why not hold better redistricting hearings

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Since the public hearings earlier this year on re-
drawing U.S. House and state school board seats were largely a charade, I hope the legisla­tive committee hosting them takes the new round of hear­ings seriously.

On Oct. 3, a panel of 22 law­makers will begin holding pub­lic hearings throughout the state on proposed districts for 105 state House seats and 35 Senate seats.

During the first round, there was little public notice or poor timing for some of the hear­ings, very few of the panel members attended the hear­ings, people were asked to make general comments about redistricting with no maps there for them to comment on, and people were told that the committee had not put together any maps yet.

But almost immediately aft­er the hearings concluded, key lawmakers including one of the co-chairmen of the committee, Sen. Gerald Dial, pulled out maps they had been working on. Other lawmakers had been working on maps, too. And it became very clear, while aver­age interested voters did not have an opportunity to talk about those maps, that several of the members of Congress and school board members had been asked for their input. -- Read the whole story --> Redistricting process should be more open | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

September 23, 2011

Rep. Sewell opposes Ala. voter ID law

The Birmingham News reports: The lone Democrat in Alabama's congressional delegation said Thursday that the state's new law requiring a voter to carry photo identification was a tactic to discourage people from voting and should be challenged in court. ...

The Alabama Legislature this year, under new Republican control, took Alabama's voter ID law one step further by requiring people to show not just documentation but also photographic proof of their identity before being allowed to vote. The new law takes effect in 2014 and was promoted by Republicans as a tool to ensure honest elections.

Sewell said it would be a burden on people who for whatever reason don't have a government-issued photo ID. Her father, for example, has been in a wheelchair for years, doesn't drive and doesn't have a driver's license. Her family will take him to get a photo ID as provided under the law, but not everyone will have the resources to do so, she said. ...

The Alabama Secretary of State's Office and the Alabama Attorney General's Office said there are no legal challenges to the law so far. The law has not yet been submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, which must certify that it does not discriminate against black voters before it can take effect. -- Read the whole story --> US Rep. Terri Sewell opposes Alabama photo voter ID law | al.com

September 20, 2011

Mobile School System redistricts for 2012 election

The Mobile Press-Register reports: The Mobile County school board today unanimously approved a plan to redraw its district lines, as it is required to do every 10 years.

The biggest changes are in District 3, currently represented by Democrat Reginald Crenshaw. That district loses Saraland, which split from the county system in 2008. And it gains Chickasaw and areas of northwest Mobile, including Hillsdale and neighborhoods along Zeigler Boulevard. The district still includes Satsuma and Prichard.

A map of the proposed new zones will be sent to the U.S. Justice Department for approval. If the federal government approves the zones in a process known as pre-clearance, the changes will take effect for the November 2012 election, when the school board seats for Districts 1 and 2 will be on the ballot.

Chickasaw City Councilman Adam Bourne had raised concerns about his city, which has a heavy number of Republican voters, moving into a mostly Democratic district. Chickasaw and Satsuma city leaders are moving toward splitting from the county school district next August. -- Read the whole story --> Mobile County school board approves new districts | al.com

September 18, 2011

Alabama's unusual and expensive move for court preclearance of congressional redistricting

The Birmingham News reports: The state of Alabama, which is on record opposing the continued monitoring of its elections by the U.S. Justice Department, bypassed the agency and instead sued in federal court to have its new congressional and school board district lines approved as non-discriminatory.

Alabama's move is unusual because most state and local governments prefer the cheaper option of filing directly with the Justice Department for an administrative review rather than going to court.

The Justice Department reports that more than 99 percent of voting changes are handled by the agency "no doubt because of the relative simplicity of the process, the significant cost savings over litigation, and the presence of specific deadlines governing the Attorney General's issuance of a determination letter." -- Read the whole article (including a quote from Ed Still) -->Alabama bypasses U.S. Justice Department in bid for approval of redistricting lines | al.com

September 15, 2011

Legislative redistricting hearings coming up

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: State lawmakers redrew 15 districts during the past legisla­tive session, but now have the daunting task of redrawing dis­tricts for the 140 districts they represent.

The legislators on a redistrict­ing committee will begin holding public hearings throughout the state Oct. 3 to allow input on the makeup of those districts.

While there was some bicker­ing over the congressional and state school board redistricting, the debate over legislative dis­tricts will likely become more per­sonal as the legislators redraw the lines to the districts they repre­sent. -- Read the whole story and the schedule of hearings --> Hearings on legislative redistricting planned | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

September 14, 2011

Alabama AG files suit for preclearance of legislative lines

The AP reports:
Attorney General Luther Strange has asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to approve new lines for congressional districts and for the state school board rather than seeking approval from the U.S. Justice Department.

The attorney general's office filed a complaint Friday asking a three-judge panel to approve the new political boundaries drawn earlier this year by the Alabama Legislature. -- Read the whole report --> Attorney General Strange asks court to OK redistricting plan | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

September 13, 2011

Etowah County Commission approves redistricting

The Gadsden Times reports: The Etowah County Commission on Monday in a called meeting approved a resolution to alter the county?s district lines. ...

The proposed changes include moving the Tillison Bend area from District 2 to District 1 and moving portions of Alford Bend and the city of Hokes Bluff from District 1 to District 2.

An area of Gadsden near the Goodyear plant, as well as portions of Gadsden near Paden Road to Murray Drive in East Gadsden, would be moved from District 6 to District 5. A portion of Gadsden and Glencoe near Bums Parks Road and West Air Depot Road would be moved from District 1 to District 6.

No changes were made to Districts 3 and 4. -- Read the whole story --> Etowah County Commission OKs resolution to change district lines | GadsdenTimes.com

Montgomery County adopts modified redistricting plan

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery County Commissioner Ham Wilson has found himself at the center of the redistricting debate, but he objected to being called the "sacrificial lamb" at Monday's County Commission meeting. ...

Under the initial proposal, Districts 1, 2 and 4 had black populations of 56 percent, 79 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Currently, District 1 has a black population of about 58 percent, which means it actually was reduced under the initial proposal.

The commissioners agreed to modify the plan, giving Districts 1, 2 and 4 black populations of 58.9 percent, 76.5 percent and 71.6 percent, respectively.

Chairman Elton Dean and Williams both voted in favor of another plan, which Williams proposed, that would have given Districts 1, 2 and 4 black populations of 69.4 percent, 74 percent and 65 percent, respectively. Commissioners Reed Ingram and Wilson voted against this proposal.
-- Read the whole story --> Commissioners approve revised Montgomery County redistricting plan | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

September 7, 2011

Gadsden mayor proposes small changes in current districts

The Gadsden Times reports: The Gadsden City Council redistricting plan proposed by Mayor Sherman Guyton makes only small changes in the existing council districts to bring their respective populations into better balance after the 2010 Census.

Guyton on Aug. 26 presented his proposal to council members. The council has six months to either accept his plan or draft a new one. If the council does not approve a redistricting plan, then Guyton's proposal will go into effect.

Any plan also will have to be pre-cleared by the Justice Department before it goes into effect for the 2014 city elections. ...

Guyton said he made as few changes as possible to existing districts in drafting the new districts. -- Read the whole story --> Proposed council redistricting plan makes small changes in districts | GadsdenTimes.com

September 4, 2011

"American Bar seeking rules on when judges must step aside from cases"

The Birmingham News reports: The American Bar Association, in a newly adopted policy, is urging states to set rules for judges to step down from cases involving campaign contributors, a sign of growing national anxiety over the influence of political money in the judicial system.

"It does raise it to the national level and starts the debates in the state legislatures, but more importantly it's on the radar of the chief justices of every state," said Tommy Wells, a Birmingham lawyer and former president of the ABA.

Alabama was at the forefront 16 years ago, when legislators passed a law calling for local judges to recuse themselves if a party or their lawyer contributed $2,000 to the judge's election; $4,000 for state appellate judges. But in a quirky stalemate between the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the Alabama Supreme Court, the law has never been enforced.

The issue has only gotten more serious since the Alabama law was passed. Spending on judicial elections has skyrocketed; questions about whether judges should be picked in partisan elections have increased; and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that campaign donations can create a risk of bias by the judge, and, separately, that corporations or labor unions can independently spend unlimited amounts to influence elections. Read the whole story --> American Bar seeking rules on when judges must step aside from cases | al.com

Sen. Ross' "Friends" raising $1.25M to pay his legal fees

Ross expects more than $1.2M in legal fees | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com
The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Although Quinton Ross was found not guilty of the 16 charges against him, the state senator ex­pects to owe more than $1.25 mil­lion in attorney fees and other ex­penses from the federal corruption trial that ended Aug. 11.

"There's no price that you can put on freedom," said Ross, the Montgomery Democrat. "We thank God for being with us."

The Friends of Quinton T. Ross Jr., Legal Defense Fund and Trust recently sent a letter, one of which was obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser, outlining the "unwar­ranted prosecution" and the cost to Ross and his family.

The trustees for the fund re­quested "your contribution of $15,000 or not less than $7,500."
-- Read the whole story -->