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

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October 28, 2012

"How 24 000 nursing home residents would be affected by voter ID rules in 2014 is unclear"

The Anniston Star reports: The polls are already open, more or less, at Beckwood Manor.

Last week, workers at the 85-bed nursing home on Leighton Avenue finished helping residents with their absentee ballot applications. It's a lengthy process, staff say, because every voter has to produce documentation to prove his or her identity.

"We have residents who have no Social Security card, and we have residents who have no birth certificate," said Clayton Cox, an administrator at Beckwood. "Eventually we find something - but very few of them have photo ID."

Cox said he'll be "very interested" to see what happens in 2014, when Alabama's voter ID laws get even tighter. Right now, it's not entirely clear how the state?s thousands of nursing home residents - most of them non-drivers - would get a photo ID for the next election season, or if they would really even need it. -- Read the whole story --> Anniston Star - How 24 000 nursing home residents would be affected by voter ID rules in 2014 is unclear

"Ariz. think tank drafts wording for 2 Ala. amendments"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: An Arizona institute said it drafted the model language for two state constitutional amendments on Alabama's November ballot.

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank devoted to advancing the ideas of former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, wrote the language for Amendment 6, aimed at blocking the Affordable Care Act, and Amendment 7, which would attempt to stave off any federal attempts to make it easier for workers to unionize in the state. ...

Amendment 6 would forbid any Alabamians from being compelled to “participate in a health care system.” Under the Affordable Care Act, those without health insurance would be required to buy insurance, starting in 2014. The law would provide a sliding scale of subsidies to help purchase insurance, up to $88,000 a year for a family of four. ...

Amendment 7 would require any ballots for unionizing to take place via secret ballot. The measure was intended to stave off federal legislation that would have allowed unionization to take place via “card check.” The federal legislation is dead for now. -- Read the whole story --> Ariz. think tank drafts wording for 2 Ala. amendments | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

October 27, 2012

Jefferson County Commission working on redistricting

AL.com reports: Jefferson County Commissioners have been quietly redrawing their district lines in a move that could determine who gets a seat on the commission when elections are held in two years. ...

Barry Stephenson, chairman of the county's Board of Registrars, said the census figures show the population in Birmingham's Districts 1 and 2 has fallen and the population in Districts 3,4,5 has increased over the past decade. ...

Districts One and Two, mostly Democrat and made up primarily of Birmingham, have to gain several thousands in population and the districts represented by the Republicans have to lose populations. -- Read the whole story --> Jefferson County commissioners quietly meeting to redraw district lines | al.com

October 23, 2012

Infographic: right to vote in American history


Source: Democracy DistilledbyeLocalLawyers.com

Infographic: right to vote in American history


Source: Democracy DistilledbyeLocalLawyers.com

Sec of State will seek higher penalties for election fraud

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Secretary of State Beth Chapman said Monday that she will pursue legislation to increase the punishment for fraud in next year's legislative session.

Chapman said at a news conference on voter fraud that she was concerned with the high volume of absentee voting in some rural counties, which frequently outstrip state averages. ...

Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, who will sponsor the measure, said the bill will raise the penalty for voter fraud from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class C felony. That would increase the punishment for voter fraud from up to three months in jail and a $500 fine to up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama to seek stiffer voter fraud penalties | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

October 21, 2012

True the Vote trying to "clear up" Alabama's voter rolls

AL.com reports: A volunteer network started by Tea Party members in Texas has taken steps to verify the addresses of college students in Huntsville, prompting local Democrats to cry foul.

True the Vote last month sent a fax to Oakwood University, a historically black Seventh-day Adventist college in Huntsville, to verify the addresses of more than 120 students who are registered voters. The list included names alongside dates of birth.

"I'm outraged about this," said Clete Wetli, chairman of the Madison County Democratic party. Wetli on Friday said True the Vote is "aligned with the far right and Tea Party activists" and is using "fear and suppression" to attempt to influence elections.

Judy Parsons, the Hartselle volunteer who contacted Oakwood University, said she is one of 130 volunteers attempting to clear up Alabama voter rolls and the student names were provided by True the Vote. She contends the group is non-partisan. -- Read the whole story --> Tea Party offshoot working to clear names from Alabama voter rolls | al.com

October 20, 2012

Former Secretary of State Worley pleads guilty

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, was fined $100 Friday for soliciting campaign support from her office staff during her last re-election bid.

Her attorney, James Anderson, said Worley entered a "best interest" plea to one misdemeanor count Friday, and prosecutors agreed to drop four other misdemeanors and five felony charges.

Worley had been scheduled to go to trial Monday before Montgomery Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs, who levied the fine.

The "best interest" plea that Worley entered is rarely used in Alabama and is different from a no contest plea. With a best interest plea, a defendant does not admit to doing anything wrong, but agrees that a guilty plea is in her best interest. -- Read the whole story --> Former secretary of state Worley pleads guilty to soliciting support from campaign office staff | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

October 17, 2012

Ethics and a school board - Part 2

AL.com reports: Edward Maddox has stepped down from the Birmingham Board of Education, where he served as president, as part of a plea agreement with the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Tommy Nail accepted Maddox' plea deal this morning, stemming from two ethics charges that Maddox used public office for personal gain. ...

The first warrant stated he used his position for either personal financial gain or for the financial gain of a family member. Falls said that charge stemmed from Maddox' position as president of the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association. He was accused of voting for funds from the city of Birmingham for Woodlawn Missions and More, a charity he founded.

The second warrant states that while on the Birmingham Board of Education, he voted to increase his daughter Melody Alston's salary by $17,000. Alston is an employee of Birmingham city schools. Board members cannot vote on personnel matters regarding family members, and are required to abstain from the vote. -- Read the whole story --> Edward Maddox steps down from Birmingham school board as part of plea agreement deal by Jefferson County judge today | al.com

Ethics and a school board - Part 1

AL. com reports: Huntsville would do well to take notice of Mike Culbreath, who is already making moves -- even running a contract past the Alabama Ethics Commission -- a month before being sworn in as the newest member of city school board. ...

He begins his time in office by doing something that elected city officials too seldom do, and almost never undertake before being sworn in. He's asking challenging questions and making waves. Most notable was his probing of a contract with a consulting company that employed the services of Frank Spinelli, who left the system last month for personal reasons. Superintendent Casey Wardynski had brought in Spinelli soon after being hired, and Wardynski has said he continued to need Spinelli's expertise, particularly when dealing with state and federal questions about the system's reduced special education budget.

Culbreath suspected that the board couldn't turn around and contract with a finance director who had just left. So he asked questions. Board members and school officials agree that legal advisors initially said everything was fine. Culbreath placed more calls, including one to the Alabama Ethics Commission. "I'm not going to be involved in anything that I don't think is right," he explained this week.

State law is clear. "No public official, director, assistant director, department or division chief, purchasing or procurement agent having the authority to make purchases, or any person who participates in the negotiation or approval of contracts, grants, or awards" can enter into a contract with the same agency they just left. Not for two years. -- Read the whole story --> New Huntsville board member, already bouncing illegal contracts, is one to watch (Our views) | al.com

October 16, 2012

"After hoaxes and misinformation, Probate Judge McKinney joins Montgomery Democratic and Republican party leaders to clarify voter ID laws"

AL.com reports: Montgomery Probate Judge Reese McKinney -- along with Democrat and Republican party chairs and county officials -- held a joint press conference this morning at the Montgomery Election Center to dispel misinformation being circulated regarding the kinds of identification voters are required to show at the polls in the General Election on Nov. 6.

With states throughout the country adopting new voter ID laws that allow only photo IDs, misinformation about Alabama's voting laws has been rampant.

"Alabama does not have a photo identification requirement to vote," McKinney stressed. "Let me say that again and be very clear, while you must present one of the 27 forms of voter identification to vote in Alabama, photo identification is not required."

McKinney stressed that even though both political parties have conflicting opinions on the issue of photo ID cards at the polls, today's conference was a bi-partisan effort. -- Read the whole article --> After hoaxes and misinformation, Probate Judge McKinney joins Montgomery Democratic and Republican party leaders to clarify voter ID laws | al.com

October 14, 2012

Mixing political money and personal uses nets conviction for former county commissioner

AL.com reports: Former Marshall County Commissioner Timothy Frank Bollinger pleaded guilty Wednesday to using a campaign contribution for personal purposes, Attorney General Luther Strange said Thursday.

In a press release from the AG's office, Strange wrote Bollinger, 54, was sentenced in Marshall County Circuit Court to a suspended term of five years in the felony ethics conviction. He was ordered to serve four years' probation and perform 100 hours of community service.

During his court appearance, Bollinger admitted he intentionally cashed a check for $500 for personal use although it was contributed to his campaign in April of 2010, the statement said. He was indicted by a Marshall County grand jury Aug. 18, 2011. -- Read the whole story --> Ex-Marshall County commissioner Tim Bollinger guilty of felony ethics violation | al.com

October 6, 2012

DOJ preclears Alabama legislative districts

The Tuscaloosa News reports: The U.S. Justice Department on Friday told Attorney General Luther Strange that it has approved the state's new legislative districts.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez told Strange that the Justice Department does not have any objections to the specified district changes.

Perez said, however, that the Justice Department approval does not stop a pending lawsuit from black Democratic lawmakers. They are challenging the redrawn districts, which would take effect for the 2014 election.

That litigation is pending in federal court. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Department OKs district changes | TuscaloosaNews.com

Other stories on the same subject: AP and Birmingham News (al.com)

Disclosure: .I am one of the counsel in the suit by the black elected officials.

Alabama GOP fails to report inkind contribution of car for 6 months

AL.com reports: The Alabama Republican Party failed for about 6 months to report the donation of an automobile that the party chairman drives, a lapse Chairman Bill Armistead said was caused by miscommunication.

Armistead said a Jasper car dealer donated use of the car, a Toyota Avalon, to the party in February as in-kind contribution. The party did not report the donation until its Aug. 20 report to the Federal Election Commission.

"It's one of those situations where things just fell through the cracks or there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication. It was an innocent mistake," said Armistead, who has been driving the vehicle on party business.

The Aug. 20 report to the FEC lists an in-kind contribution of $489 received from car dealer Scott Crump of Jasper. -- Read the whole story --> State GOP failed to report car donation for several months | al.com

October 4, 2012

Madison GOP candidate files challegne against winner of runoff

The Huntsville Times (al.com) reports: Amanda Gentle, who was defeated in the GOP runoff for the Madison County Probate judge nomination in April, said she filed a complaint today with the Alabama Republican Party seeking to have the nominee, Patty Demos, disqualified. ...

Gentle received the most votes in the Republican primary in March, with 36 percent of the vote to Demos' 34 percent. But Demos, an attorney, won the runoff by a wide margin, winning more than 63 percent of the votes cast.

Gentle said the complaint alleges that Demos filed her 2011 annual financial disclosure form Monday, but it was due by Jan. 31. The complaint also cites a March filing that is marked as both a monthly and weekly report and never amended. -- Read the whole story --> Defeated GOP Madison County judge candidate Amanda Gentle wants nominee Patty Demos disqualified, state party says 'no' | al.com