Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: August 2012 Archives

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August 31, 2012

Uniontown has more voters than residents

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Top lawmakers in the Alabama Legislature said Thursday that more people voting in the Uniontown municipal election than there are voting age people is a prime example of why the state needs to fight voter fraud.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner said the voting pattern in Uniontown, with a population of 1,775 according to the latest census, was suspicious. The town has 2,587 registered voters, according to a report in the Tuscaloosa News. ...

Secretary of State Beth Chapman, the state’s chief election official, has been vocal about the need to confront voter fraud and said she supports photo voter ID, but said the issue in Uniontown is more about absentee ballots and voter rolls. ...

Local and state election officials told the News there could be a number of reasons why those registration numbers are so high, including the possibility that the census numbers indicating the population in the west Alabama town are wrong, that voter registrars have strict guidelines for removing people from the rolls, and that people in the town have post office boxes since there is no door-to-door mail delivery. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama state GOP leaders: 'Voter fraud alive and well' | The Montgomery Advertiser |

August 27, 2012

Two south Alabama cities have delayed elections for two weeks because of T.S. Isaac

Gulf Shores postpones Tuesday election, issuing voluntary evacuation Monday (Updated) |

The city has postponed Tuesday's election to Sept. 11, and will issue a voluntary evacuation for residents living in low-lying areas starting Monday morning in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac's arrival on Tuesday afternoon. ...

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said Sunday afternoon that the City Council would meet on Monday morning to declare a local state of emergency which allows the city to issue a voluntary evacuation order. The city also plans to postpone the Tuesday election until Sept. 11. The cost to reschedule the election should be minimal, Kennon said. Most of the costs will involve the paperwork used in the election, he said.

August 24, 2012

Seven states support Shelby County's challenge to VRA

The Birmingham News ( reports: Seven states, including Alabama, are backing Shelby County's legal challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act, according to written arguments filed today with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Shelby County's case alleges that Section 5 threatens state sovereignty by forcing every city and county in covered areas to get permission to move a polling place or redraw district lines, for example. The areas were singled out by Congress 47 years ago because of their record of blatant discrimination against blacks at the ballot box. Such racism is history now, the states argue.

"Section 5 served a noble purpose, and America is a freer and better place for it," states the brief filed by Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. "But Congress's refusal to amend the statute after this court identified its infirmities (in a Texas case) ... means that this court is the last and only branch of the federal government that can defend the state's coequal sovereignty."

Alaska, which has its own lawsuit challenging Section 5's constitutionality, filed a separate brief supporting Shelby County's petition. It says that state's unique geography and small population require nimble election procedures to best accommodate voters. -- Read the whole story --> Seven states backing Shelby County in appeal of voting rights case to the U.S. Supreme Court |

August 20, 2012

"$216,000 raised by Rep. Spencer Bachus for his legal defense"

The Birmingham News ( reports: The biggest names in Birmingham business donated more than $216,000 to help Rep. Spencer Bachus pay his lawyers for work during a five-month ethics investigation, new documents show.

Seventy individuals, companies, associations and political action committees -- most of them from Alabama -- gave up to $5,000 each to Bachus' legal defense fund between April and July, according to the disclosure forms Bachus filed with the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bachus in late April was cleared by the Office of Congressional Ethics of allegations that he used his official position to inform his personal investment decisions. The investigation, which began late last year, forced Bachus to hire attorneys and compile financial documents for the office to review.

Most of the money raised by the legal defense fund -- $207,000 of it -- went to two law firms in June and July; Bachus already had reported to the Federal Election Commission that he paid $422,000 in legal fees between December and April from his campaign account. -- Read the whole story --> $216,000 raised by Rep. Spencer Bachus for his legal defense |

August 18, 2012

Democrats disqualify Harry Lyon for Alabama Supreme Court

The Birmingham News ( reports: The Alabama Democratic Party disqualified Harry Lyon as its nominee for chief justice after a hearing today over online comments the Pelham lawyer made that party officials deemed improper for a judicial candidate.

Lyon said afterward he would file a lawsuit and seek criminal charges against the party chairman, Mark Kennedy, alleging that Lyon fraudulently was deprived of his $3,000 filing fee.

"The Alabama Democratic Party committed suicide today," Lyon said. "The party now officially is in the grave."

Four members of the State Democratic Executive Committee unanimously agreed to remove Lyon for comments critical of Republican justices, homosexuals and supporters of gay marriage, ruling he violated canons of ethics for judges and judicial candidates. -- Read the whole story --> Lyon says Alabama Democratic Party "in the grave" after his disqualification from court race |

August 17, 2012

"Madison GOP activist on the hunt for campaign finance law violations"

The Huntsville Times ( reports: A Republican Party activist from Madison has taken it upon himself to scrutinize the campaign finance reports of every member of the Alabama Legislature, Huntsville City Council, Madison City Council and Madison County Commission.

Thomas Scovill says his research has uncovered multiple instances of sloppy reporting, mathematical errors, forms filed after deadline and other problems that may violate the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Scovill generally e-mails his findings to a politician and gives the person a chance to explain things by filing amended campaign finance reports.

"Those amended reports are a good thing to do," he said Wednesday. "It says, 'I can't undo being wrong, but I can set the record straight.'" -- Read the whole report --> Watchdog report: Madison GOP activist on the hunt for campaign finance law violations |

August 16, 2012

Dems may book Harry Lyons from the ballot

The Birmingham News ( reports: Harry Lyon said he expects to be tossed out as the Democratic nominee for chief justice when a state party committee meets Friday over online comments by the Pelham lawyer.

A five-member committee of the Alabama Democratic Party will convene in Birmingham to hear evidence, then decide if Lyon, a frequent candidate, should be kicked off the ballot for violating party bylaws and judicial ethics canons. ...

The charges relate to recent posts by Lyon on Facebook that bash the Republican nominee, Roy Moore; criticize President Obama's support for gay marriage and call its proponents sick and perverted. ...

If Lyon is removed Friday, the State Democratic Executive Committee will set a schedule for new hopefuls to qualify and seek executive committee approval, Bradley said. -- Read the whole story -->Alabama Democrats to decide on disqualifying Harry Lyon as party's chief justice nominee |

"Still no early voting provisions in Alabama"

The Birmingham News ( reports: Alabama is one of increasingly fewer states without early voting, such as opening the polls on the weekend or expanding absentee balloting.

Four years ago, Alabama was one of 19 states that didn't allow any type of early voting. In the 2012 presidential election year, there are 15. ...

For the November elections, Alabamians will only be able to vote if they show up in person on Election Day or provide a valid excuse for needing an absentee ballot ahead of time. There was no extensive debate in the Alabama Legislature this year about expanding those basic rules. ...

A Democratic lawmaker from Birmingham had a bill in 2009 to allow anyone to vote absentee for any reason, a practice allowed in 27 states plus the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The bill passed a committee but died in the Alabama House. -- Read the whole story --> Still no early voting provisions in Alabama |

August 15, 2012

Worley still awaiting trial

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: More than five years have passed since a grand jury indicted former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, and she's still waiting to find out when she will be tried and on what charges.

The prominent Democrat could face simple misdemeanor charges or more serious felony charges over her 2006 re-election campaign. The decision is up to the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court. ...

The case stems from Worley’s unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2006. During the campaign, she sent five employees in the secretary of state’s office a campaign letter, campaign contribution envelope and bumper sticker.

In March 2007, then-Attorney General Troy King got a Montgomery County grand jury to indict her on five felonies and five misdemeanors. The five felonies accused her of violating state law by using her official position to influence the vote of another person. The five misdemeanor charges accused her of violating a state law against public officials seeking campaign donations from their public employees. -- Read the whole story --> Worley still waiting for trial: Former Alabama Secretary of State was indicted in 2007 | The Montgomery Advertiser |

August 13, 2012

Alabama Black Legislatative Caucus sues over legislative redistricting

The Birmingham News reports: The Legislative Black Caucus and other black Alabama office holders filed a lawsuit in federal court this morning to try to block implementation of new legislative redistricting plan.

The lawsuit claims that the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate redistricting plans dilute minority voting strength, violate the principle of "one person, one vote" and unnecessarily and illegally split Alabama counties among multiple legislative district.

"The lawsuits asks the federal court to declare these two plans unconstitutional and order the Legislature to start over," said James Blacksher, a lawyer representing plaintiffs.

The lawsuit echoes complaints during the legislative session that the Republican majority was "stacking and packing" minority districts with more and more black voters and thereby reducing black voters' influence outside of minority districts. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Legislative Black Caucus files lawsuit over redistricting plans (video) |

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for plaintiffs.

August 8, 2012

Petition to disqualify Lyons for failure to file campaign reports

AP reports today that Sherry Broyles has filed petitions with both major parties to disqualify candidates (including Harry Lyons, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice) for failure to file campaign-finance reports. -- Read the whole story --> Ala. GOP won't remove candidates, Demos eye Lyons |

Section 17-5-8 of the Fair Campaign Practices Act begins with the following:

(a) Each principal campaign committee or political action committee shall file with the Secretary of State or judge of probate, as designated in Section 17-5-9, reports of contributions and expenditures at the following times once a principal campaign committee files its statement under Section 17-5-4 or a political action committee files its statement of organization under Section 17-5-5 ....

August 7, 2012

Mobile Dems complaining about probate judge's flagging of ballots as provisional

The Mobile Press-Register ( reports: Members of the local Democratic Party are upset that an unknown number of ballots in the March primary election may not have been counted because the voters' mailing addresses did not match their addresses on file at their precincts.

One of the party members, Milton Morrow, who has run for political office in the past, has filed a formal complaint with Secretary of State Beth Chapman's office asking for a cease and desist order against Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis.

Davis had flagged 4,000 such voters who moved from one part of Mobile County to another and ordered that their ballots be cast as "provisional ballots," which, by law, count only if the Board of Registrars can demonstrate that the voter is eligible. ...

A recent opinion from Attorney General Luther Strange's office noted that a voter cannot be blocked from casting a regular ballot when the address on the voter's registration conflicts with post office information. The opinion did not state whether Davis acted improperly, but, instead, was designed to guide future actions. -- Read the whole story --> Democratic Party upset over flagging of Mobile County ballots |