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

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November 28, 2014

Split precincts cause problems

Rep Craig Ford writes about the consequences of the Republican gerrymander of the Legislature: But under our new district lines, the Legislature took this a step further by "packing" the districts represented by African-American legislators with as many black voters as possible. Legislators again claimed the purpose of this was to ensure that an African-American would be elected to represent that district. But African-Americans were already representing these districts at their previous levels. There was no need to add black voters to these districts. The second argument, and the one that is most relevant to what happened in District 89, has been that these districts divide "communities of interest." Communities of interests can include counties, cities and towns. But most importantly, the new districts split voting precincts.

Splitting these communities dilutes their voice in government. For example, the more times a county is divided the less influence it will have with a particular legislator. This also causes problems when trying to get local bills passed, since local bills have to be signed off on by every member of the delegation. The more divided the county, the more legislators who have to approve of the legislation, even if that legislator only has a small portion of that county in his or her district.

In House District 89, poll workers at one of the split precincts unintentionally gave the wrong ballot to more than 200 voters. But even though it was an honest mistake, that mistake now means that those 200 voters will have to spend the next four years with a representative they did not vote for.

Making this situation even worse, the difference between the candidates in this race is less than 100 votes. Meaning, the voters who received the wrong ballot could have completely altered the outcome. -- Case shows redistricting damage

Disclosure: I am one of the plaintiffs’ counsel in the case, Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, now pending in the US Supreme Court.

November 27, 2014

Mobile license commissioner indicted for misuse of public funds reports: Mobile County License Commissioner Kimberly Hastie is accused in a federal indictment of using public money to finance her political aspirations.

The indictment alleges Hastie illegally used the money in connection with her effort to be revenue commissioner and run a combined licence and revenue commission office. Deputy Licence Commissioner Ramona Yeager is accused in the indictment of helping Hastie misappropriate the public funds. ...

Neil Hanley, Hastie's attorney, held a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside his Mobile office. He said the allegations against Hastie are not true.

Hanley said money was spent on Hastie's effort to combine her office and the Mobile County Revenue Commission office, but it was done legally.

"Unbeknownst to the County Commission, the defendants instructed a political consulting firm to falsify their invoices and have them contain false and misleading statements," the indictment alleges. "Specifically, the defendants signed off on false invoices knowing they contained lies to trick the County Commission." -- Mobile County license commissioner accused of using public funds to finance her political aspirations |

November 25, 2014 reports: Secretary of State Jim Bennett said today that Alabama's new photo voter ID law caused only a few inquiries to his office during the Nov. 4 election.

The general election was the biggest test yet of the law, with 1.2 million people voting. It was in effect for the first time during the primaries in June. ..

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, an outspoken opponent of the law before the election, said it was a factor in the 40 percent turnout, lowest for a general election since at least 1986. -- Alabama's photo voter ID law declared a success; not everyone agrees |

November 20, 2014

Taking contributions may be legal under the campaign-finance law, but illegal under the Ethics Act

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: State Sen. Clyde Chambliss is facing a complaint filed with the State of Alabama Ethics Commission alleging a conflict of interest in actions he took as a Prattville city councilman.

The Prattville Republican resigned from his post on the city council on Nov. 5, the same day he was sworn in to the Legislature. Prattville resident Jon Lee Finnegan filed the complaint.

Her complaint stems from Chambliss' Senate campaign receiving contributions from AUTO PAC, a political action committee of automobile dealers in the state. According to campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of State's office, Chambliss receive a total of $13,500 in contributions from the PAC.

While on the council, Chambliss voted for an incentives package used to keep Long Lewis Ford of the River Region's dealership in Autauga County. Long Lewis Ford of Muscle Shoals contributed $2,500 to AUTO PAC on Feb. 2, finance disclosure forms show. In August, Long Lewis Ford of Muscle Shoals purchased the former Gilmore Ford in Prattville, and the business was renamed Long Lewis Ford of the River Region. -- Chambliss faces ethics complaint

November 19, 2014

Study argues switching to elected judges will help Alabama's economy reports: For years, voices from the left have called for an end to partisan judicial elections in Alabama. Now, a free market think tank at Troy University has added support from the other side of the political spectrum.

The Manuel H. Johnson Center for the Political Economy on Tuesday released a study examining Alabama's judicial system and draws two main conclusions:

• Using partisan elections to select judges results in a lower-quality judiciary.

• Holding all parties in multi-defendant civil cases responsible for the entire judgment - even when some are far more responsible for the harm in question - hurts economic vitality by discouraging investment by bigger companies. -- Should Alabama switch to appointed judges? Study argues it would improve economy |

November 12, 2014

Roundup of stories on Alabama redistricting argument

Official transcript


Derek Muller

Washington Post


Emily Bazelon

Nina Totenberg on NPR

Adam Liptak at NY Times

Rick Hasen on SCOTUSblog

Thanks to Rick Hasen for collecting these.

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

November 5, 2014

"Alabama Democrats take redistricting fight to the Supreme Court"

Kyle Whitmire writes a "curtain raiser" on ALcom: When state Rep. Daniel Boman ran for the legislature in 2010, it was a lot easier for him to picture Alabama House District 16 in his head. You could pretty much pull any Alabama History text book from a high school library shelf and see the boundaries - Lamar and Fayette counties - on the map on one of the first few pages.

But when running for reelection four years later, after the Alabama Legislature redrew the lines in 2012, he had to learn a different district.

Half of Lamar County has been cut from the district. In its place was added northeast Tuscaloosa County and northwest Jefferson County. Boman lives in Sulligent, about three miles from the Mississippi line, but his district now stretches half the width of the state, all the way to Gardendale.

"For me to cover that much geography is tough," Boman said Tuesday going into a an Election Day fight he would ultimately lose. "The other part is just trying to figure just what part I represented." -- Alabama Democrats take redistricting fight to the Supreme Court |

Note: the story talks generally about the ALBC v. Alabama case set for argument one week from today. I am one of the plaintiffs’ counsel in the case.

"Two Montgomery polling places hand out wrong ballots"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Two polling places in Montgomery handed out the wrong ballots to voters Tuesday, which may throw off the results for two Alabama House of Representative races, according to Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead.

The polling places in question, Beulah Baptist Church and Newtown Church of Christ, both have precincts in House District 77, in which incumbent Democrat John Knight is running against former Republican Rep. David Grimes, and House District 78, in which Alvin Holmes, the Democratic incumbent, is running against Tijuanna Adentunji.

Armistead said the party started getting calls Tuesday afternoon from voters who thought they'd gotten the wrong ballot.

He said after looking into the problem, the Alabama GOP found that rather than giving out the correct ballot to individuals based on their precinct, the poll workers just gave out the ballots, one stack at a time.

Poll workers didn't know there were two separate ballots, he said. -- Two Montgomery polling places hand out wrong ballots

November 4, 2014

Gun-toter arrested at polling place in Shelby County reports: A Shelby County Sheriff's deputy this morning arrested a founding member of the gun-rights group BamaCarry who openly wore a holstered pistol to a Pelham voting location. ...

The arrest happened as the Shelby County Sheriff's Office has taken a stance against allowing weapons at the polling sites.

"Each polling location in Shelby County will have a 'No Firearm' sign posted at the entrance of the precinct, at the requests of the private property owner or governing body of the property. This will be enforced in accordance with Alabama law," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement last week.

"Our goal is to allow every registered voter in Shelby County the right to vote in an influence-free environment," Sheriff Chris Curry said in the statement last week. "Voting is a constitutional right and it is our job to facilitate the process effectively and efficiently." -- Pelham voter wearing holstered pistol arrested at church polling site this morning |

Disclosure: The article notes that I issued a statement on behalf of the Joe Hubbard for Attorney General Campaign concerning the arrest.

Update to the story above: Burchfield a few minutes later emailed the voting violation code for Kennedy's charge, which is listed as Section 17-17-33, titled "Obstruction, intimidation, etc., of voting rights of others."

"It shall be unlawful for any person to obstruct, intimidate, threaten, or coerce any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he or she may choose, or for the purpose of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for state or local office or any other proposition at any election. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty, upon conviction, of a Class A misdemeanor."

"In Last Minute Decision, Alabama Says Voters Can't Use Public Housing ID At The Polls"

ThinkProgress reports: Alabama, which is testing out its new voter ID law for the first time this year, will not accept public housing ID at the polls.

Bernard Simelton of the Alabama NAACP State Conference told ThinkProgress that he learned Friday that voters will not be able to use their public housing ID under the Attorney General’s interpretation of the new law. -- In Last Minute Decision, Alabama Says Voters Can't Use Public Housing ID At The Polls » ThinkProgress

Vote or "land may be given to honor ... klansmen."

ALcom reports: A flier distributed by a Montgomery civil rights group warns Alabama voters that if they do not vote Tuesday, "land may be given to honor extremist groups to honor klansmen."

The reference to the Ku Klux Klan is part of the flier titled "18 reasons why you should vote if you're 18 years or older." The flier also warns of cuts to food stamps and unemployment insurance. ...

The flier features the logo of the Alabama New South Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group founded in 1986. Its purpose is "to promote the general welfare of all people through independent focused organizations dedicated to progressive ideals of freedom, justice and democracy," according to its website. -- Alabama land will be used to honor 'klansmen' if people do not vote, flier from New South Coalition warns |

November 1, 2014

Mike Hubbard "Collides With Ethics Law He Espoused"

The New York Times reports: For a time, it seemed that Michael G. Hubbard and the prosecutors were waging parallel wars.

Both aimed their fire at the state's political establishment: Mr. Hubbard, as a state representative and chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, by focusing intently on defeating the Democrats who controlled the State House until 2010, and federal anticorruption prosecutors by launching a fusillade of investigations.

But this year, on his way to another easy re-election as the most powerful politician in Alabama, Mr. Hubbard and the law collided.

On Oct. 20, Mr. Hubbard, 52, was arrested after a grand jury returned a 23-count indictment, partly on the basis of an ethics law he had championed, accusing him of using his positions as party chairman and speaker of the House to steer thousands of dollars' worth of business to companies in which he had a financial interest. Mr. Hubbard has vehemently denied the charges. -- Firebrand Alabama Republican Collides With Ethics Law He Espoused -