Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: June 2014 Archives

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June 29, 2014

In memory of Libby (1945-2007) and Ginny (1952-2014)

Teal ribbon

Captive constituents

The Anniston Star reports: When Talladega City Councilman Joseph Ballow goes up for re-election, he can be sure that more than a quarter of the residents in his ward won't show up at the polls -- because they're behind bars.

One of five councilmen in this city of approximately 16,000, Ballow represents a 3,121-person ward that includes Talladega Federal Correctional Institution, a prison with 939 inmates. ...

That phenomenon has been a matter of growing concern for some prison reform advocates, who see the potential for "prison gerrymandering" -- the use of prisoners to beef up the numbers when political districts are redrawn.

"We think of one person, one vote as the rule, " said Aleks Kajstura, legal director for the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit group that advocates for a new way of districting prisons. "But when you pad out the population with inmates, you're giving people in some parts of the country more political power than others." -- Captive constituents: Prison population beefs up some Alabama districts - The Anniston Star: News

June 28, 2014

Is this the best campaign ad of the year in Alabama? reports:
In a state known for its less-than-high-road political commercials, an Alabama House candidate is earning high praise for his ad urging voters to "think outside the box."

Darius Foster, Republican candidate for House District 56, released his ad earlier this month. The 1 minute video shows people of all races reading bio information about Foster, who is black.

In the ad, Foster said he decided to make the video to share the facts "while challenging stereotypes."

"In a nutshell, I am not monolithic. I am many things. I can't be put in a box," he says in the ad. -- Watch what pundits are describing as the best campaign ad from an Alabama politician this year |

Alabama open primaries: " just a happenstance of history"

The Anniston Star reports: Primary elections are a longstanding tradition in Alabama politics. Though the political arena has changed dramatically since the days of the South's one-party system, the open primary election system in Alabama has yet to evolve.

Bill Armistead, the chairman of Alabama's Republican Party, has said he would like the state to require voters to register as party members in order to vote in primary elections here. He repeated those calls this week after U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran fought off a primary challenge from Chris McDaniel in a runoff election Tuesday, reportedly with the help of Democratic voters.

Some political scientists and election reform advocates agree that the current system may not be the best available, but settling on an alternative may not be easy.

"The main reason we have the system we do cannot be expressed or articulated in rational or ideological terms," said Glen Browder, professor emeritus of American democracy and political science at Jacksonville State University. "It's just a happenstance as a result of history." -- History defines Alabama's open primaries - The Anniston Star: News

June 27, 2014

Hubbard wants adjustments to primaries

Charles Dean writes on
Not many hours after Cochran had won I sent a text message to Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard asking for his reaction and whether or not he now might support an effort to close the state's open primary system where anyone is free to vote in either party primary.

It didn't take Hubbard long to respond and add his voice to calls to stop or at least curtail Democrats voting in the GOP primary.:

"Given the fact that AEA-backed RINOs infiltrated our Republican primaries this election cycle and will likely continue to do so, there is obviously a need to look at the system and make needed adjustments," Hubbard said in a statement. ...

"I believe we should lay out all available options, including closing our GOP run-offs to crossover voting, and study what works best in other Republican red states like Alabama." Hubbard continued. "The next legislative session does not convene until next March, so we have plenty of time to take a measured approach and decide upon the steps necessary to protect our party nominating process." -- House Speaker Mike Hubbard willing to look at all options to end crossover voting in runoffs |

June 26, 2014

GOP chairman still banging his closed-primary drum reports: Democratic voters helped Sen. Thad Cochran squeak by in the Republican runoff in Mississippi on Tuesday, a fact that Alabama's Republican Party chairman says strengthens the argument for party registration in this state.

Alabama is an open primary state, so voters don't have to register with a party to vote in the primary.

Chairman Bill Armistead said Democrats could determine the outcome of a Republican runoff in Alabama, just as they apparently did in Mississippi.

"I think what happened in Mississippi last night definitely sends a strong signal to us in Alabama that until we have party registration that same kind of thing could happen here in our state," Armistead said.

Armistead said he was opposed to candidates seeking Democratic support in primaries or runoffs, although he said that's fine to do in the general election. -- Alabama GOP chairman says Mississippi Senate race strengthens argument for party registration |

June 20, 2014

GOP chairman seeks final solution to Democrats' "meddling" in primary reports: The head of the state's Republican Party is taking aim at the Alabama Education Association in his fight to move towards a closed primary.

In a letter sent to GOP members and posted to this week, party boss Bill Armistead said he's continuing his long-time efforts to stop cross-over voting in primaries by moving towards a "closed" primary. ...

[He writes,] "Until such time that we enact legislation in Alabama to have a closed or semi-closed primary, we will continue to see Democrats "meddling" in our Republican primary. It's time to put a stop to that once and for all." -- Alabama Republicans wants 'outsiders' (that means you AEA) to quit meddling in is primaries: Today in state politics |

June 14, 2014

It's Flag Day. What are you flying?


June 13, 2014

GOP claims to have evidence of voter fraud

Reuters reports: Alabama Republicans, who offered a $1,000 reward for substantiated reports of voter fraud in this month's primary elections, said on Thursday they plan to forward credible evidence of wrongdoing to state prosecutors.

Republicans argue that voter fraud is a central problem in U.S. elections. Democrats say Republican complaints about voter fraud are a smokescreen for Republican efforts to put in place measures like strict voter identification laws intended to make it unduly difficult for voters who tend to vote Democratic like minorities, young people and the elderly to cast ballots. ...

The allegations collected by Alabama Republicans include a candidate improperly offering to assist voters in filling out their ballots, a woman who was wrongly told she had signed up to vote absentee and could only cast a provisional ballot in person and cases in which voters were told they could only vote for Democratic candidates, Armistead said. -- Alabama Republicans say voter fraud found after offering reward | Reuters

(And none of those would be prevented by voter ID.)

How does Mississippi have a runoff election faster than Alabama?

Note: Alabama and Mississippi held their primaries on the same day, 3 June. Mississippi will hold its runoff on 24 June, but Alabama has to wait till 15 July. Why the difference? Short answer: UOCAVA.

The Mississippi Business Journal reports: The Secretary of State's Office has been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that current state law conflicts with federal military and overseas voting laws.

Recent changes to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) require states to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters who request them at least 45 days before an election for federal office. State law provides only 21 days between a primary election and a primary run-off election. ...

"Rather than be sued by the federal government for failing to comply with federal law, the State Board of Election Commissioners have decided to provide military voters with both their primary and primary run-off ballot when electronically transmitting overseas absentee ballots," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. "Mississippi is a leading state in allowing electronic voting for the military, and I intend to keep it that way."

Military and overseas voters will rank the candidates of their choice for the primary run-off ballot, in a so-called "ranked choice" ballot. When the primary run-off ballot is returned to the Circuit Clerk's Office with the primary election ballot, it will be placed in a separate absentee ballot envelope in the event there is a primary run-off election. -- Justice: State's military, overseas voting law conflicts with UOCAVA Mississippi Business Journal

June 11, 2014

Secretary of State has certified 5 independent candidates, reviewing 20 more reports: The Alabama Secretary of State's Office has certified the independent candidacies of three Mobile-area political candidates, including a pair kicked off the primary ballot by their respective parties.

All three independent candidates are waging longshot bids to unseat entrenched incumbents. ...

The candidates are three of five who have been certified by the Secretary of State's Office. Spokeswoman Emily Marsal said state officials are reviewing 20 others statewide. -- State certifies 3 Mobile-area independent candidates -- including 2 kicked out of primaries |

June 6, 2014

"State GOP chair seeks closed primaries"

The Decatur Daily reports: The state's GOP party chairman said he will ask the Legislature next year to close Alabama's primary elections, meaning that only people registered with the state as Republicans or Democrats could vote in them.

Bill Armistead has favored the idea for years, but after Tuesday's primaries, he said, it may have more support.

It is very clear that some of our incumbent House members were defeated by newcomers supported by the (Alabama Education Association)," Armistead said. "It is likely that Democrats came in to vote."

Armistead's proposal would keep independent voters out of primaries. -- State GOP chair seeks closed primaries - Decatur Daily: News

June 4, 2014

Social media skullduggery reports: Someone claiming to be incumbent County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee contacted a reporter Saturday via LinkedIn asking to "set the record straight" on a campaign issue, but the message did not come from Menefee. ..

On Saturday, an reporter received a message from the imposter that included a link to a WAFF story about an ADEM citation about a hazardous dump site. The message said: "I found this and thought you might be interested. I want to set the record straight. My cell phone number is 256-XXX-XXX. -- Stanley"

However, when the reporter called Menefee at the cell phone number provided, Menefee said he had not left a message and was advised by an attorney not to discuss the issue. ...

Heather Wilson, who worked on Menefee's campaign, said she thinks the imposter is the same person who set up a fake Facebook account in Menefee's name a year ago. The person apparently wanted reporters to call Menefee and get the dump issue in the media, she said. -- Was fake social media account used to influence Limestone County Commission chairman race? |

June 3, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenge to Alabama redistricting plan

AP reports: The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider a challenge from Alabama Democrats who say a Republican-drawn legislative map intentionally packs black Democrats into a few voting districts, giving them too little influence in the Legislature.

The justices agreed to hear a pair of appeals from the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and other Democratic lawmakers who contend the new map created in 2012 illegally limits black voting strength and makes it harder to elect Democrats outside the majority-black districts.

A panel of three federal judges had ruled 2-1 last year that the new districts were not discriminatory and did not violate the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution.

The Legislature had to redraw political boundaries to reflect population shifts in the 2010 Census. Alabama Republican Attorney General Luther Strange has said the new legislative districts are consistent with federal law. -- U.S. Supreme Court to hear Alabama redistricting challenge; black Democrats argue plan designed to limit their influence |

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus.

Related stories:

  • If challenge succeeds: New map, maybe not new elections
  • Could redistricting challenge before U.S. Supreme Court affect Alabama 2014 elections? There's a precedent for a do-over

  • "Alabama Republicans offer $1,000 for information that leads to a felony voter-fraud conviction" reports: The Alabama Republican Party isn't just hoping that the state's first use of photo identifications will cut down on fraud at the polls on Tuesday.

    They are going one step further and offering $1,000 for information that leads to a conviction for felony voter fraud, according to their Chairman's Corner newsletter.

    The use of photo IDs is the first test at the polls tomorrow.

    But many Republicans still suspect fraud could occur.

    In fact, the Alabama Republican Party has set up a phone number to report fraud. It's 844-AL-FRAUD (844-253-7283). -- Alabama Republicans offer $1,000 for information that leads to a felony voter-fraud conviction |

    June 2, 2014

    Foundation for Limited Government argues for strict reading of campaign-finance law

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A group that has helped fund challengers to Republican incumbents in Tuesday's GOP primary told the Alabama attorney general's office in April that its advertisements were for educational, not electioneering purposes.

    In correspondence obtained by the Advertiser, J. Brandon Rice, an Opelika attorney representing the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, said television spots that featured both Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn -- and which sparked a formal complaint from Marsh -- were not meant to influence an election, but to encourage voters and politicians to sign a pledge circulated by the organization.

    Rice wrote that the Foundation did not have to follow laws requiring disclosure of its finances because it was not trying to influence the election.

    "Since the Foundation is not engaged in electioneering communications, it is not required to file reports of its contributions and expenditures," Rice wrote. -- Ads don't violate campaign finance law, Foundation says