Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: August 2015 Archives

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August 28, 2015

"Ten Alabama counties have more voters than eligible people"

AL.com reports: An organization called the Public Interest Legal Foundation has notified 10 counties in Alabama that they have more registered voters than voting age population.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he checked the numbers in the counties listed by the foundation and confirmed that all 10 had more registered voters than people 18 and older.

The counties are Lowndes, Perry, Greene, Macon, Wilcox, Marengo, Hale, Washington, Conecuh and Choctaw.

Merrill said all 10 counties have lost population since 2010 and believes some people who have left the counties remain on the voting rolls. -- Ten Alabama counties have more voters than eligible people | AL.com

August 26, 2015

"Federal court asks plaintiffs to draw Alabama legislative district plan"

AL.com reports: A three-judge federal court today asked plaintiffs who claim Alabama's legislative districts are racially gerrymandered if they could draw a new plan that would strike the delicate balance of protecting majority black districts while not using race as the main factor. ...

The case concerns Alabama's 140 legislative districts, redrawn by a Republican-led Legislature in 2012, as is done after after 10-year census. The plan was used in last year's elections.

The plan did not reduce the number of majority black districts from the previous maps -- 27 in the House and eight in the Senate.

But the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, the Alabama Democratic Conference and others sued to challenge the plan, saying it packed too many blacks into those majority black districts, reducing their influence in other districts. They also claimed the plan unnecessarily split counties.

Today, in response to Pryor's questions, lawyers for the plaintiffs said they could come up with a district plan that protects minority districts without making race predominant over other redistricting principles, such as keeping counties and precincts intact and keeping incumbents in separate districts. -- Federal court asks plaintiffs to draw Alabama legislative district plan | AL.com

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

August 24, 2015

Alabama redistricting case set for argument on Tuesday

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Three federal judges will hear arguments Tuesday over this question: Did the Alabama Legislature try to reduce the voice of minority voters with a new district map?

Attorneys for black legislators say yes and want to have the districts thrown out completely.

"We're hoping that the court will declare all of the majority black districts to be unconstitutional," said James Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, in a phone interview Friday. "And then give the legislature a deadline for producing new plans. We hope in time for elections to be held under new plans in 2016."

The state says the plaintiffs have no proof that race was the predominant factor in the maps' creation. -- Alabama redistricting battle back in federal court

Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

August 19, 2015

State Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker begins raising money for 2016 election

The Anniston Star reports: The next general election is more than a year away, but one of the men on the state's highest court has raised $47,000 for his re-election campaign.

Justice Tom Parker, one of three justices up for re-election in 2016, picked up donations from seven law firms and one individual lawyer in July and August. Parker, a Republican who does not yet have any opponents for the Supreme Court seat, is the first statewide candidate to report any fundraising for next year?s elections. ...

Parker's top donors include Birmingham lawyer David Marsh and the law firm Hare, Wynn Newell and Newton; each gave $10,000 to Parker's campaign. All of Parker's donors to date are lawyers or law firms, and most state on their websites that they've argued cases before the Alabama Supreme Court. Attempts to reach spokespeople willing to comment on the donations at all of the firms were unsuccessful Tuesday. -- State Supreme Court justice begins raising money for 2016 election - The Anniston Star: News

August 16, 2015

R.I.P.: Julian Bond

The New York Times reports: Julian Bond, a former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a charismatic figure of the 1960s civil rights movement, a lightning rod of the anti-Vietnam War campaign and a lifelong champion of equal rights for minorities, died on Saturday night, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was 75.

Mr. Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after a brief illness, the center said in a statement Sunday morning.

He was one of the original leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, while he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

He moved from the militancy of the student group to the top leadership of the establishmentarian N.A.A.C.P. Along the way, he was a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer, college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.

He also served for 20 years in the Georgia Legislature, mostly in conspicuous isolation from white colleagues who saw him as an interloper and a rabble-rouser. -- Julian Bond, Former N.A.A.C.P. Chairman and Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 75 - The New York Times

August 14, 2015

"People flock from across U.S. to honor Jonathan Daniels"

The Montgomery Advertiser reported: Religious leaders and civil rights activists from across America begin arriving in Alabama today to remember an Episcopal seminary student who sacrificed his life to save a teenage girl 50 years ago.

Jonathan Daniels was one of several activists who took part in voting rights protests in 1965 during a violent year that claimed several lives.

Daniels, 26, died instantly when struck in the chest at point blank range by a shotgun blast as he stood outside a small convenience store on Aug. 20, 1965, shielding Ruby Sales who was not struck. ...

Events are scheduled throughout the weekend with the center of attention again in Hayneville where Daniels, a white New Hampshire native, was fatally shot on a hot August day not far from the Lowndes County Courthouse. Sales, who turned 17 a few weeks before the shooting, is black. -- People flock from across U.S. to honor Jonathan Daniels

August 10, 2015

Thomas Gilmore, former sheriff of Greene County and long-time pastor, has died

AL.com reports: Thomas Gilmore, Greene County's first black sheriff and the second black sheriff elected in Alabama, died Sunday in Birmingham, according to WVTM-TV.

The 74-year-old, a longtime pastor at First Baptist Church of Ensley, was born in Forkland and briefly lived in Los Angeles before returning home to Greene County in 1963. ...

Inspired by the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Gilmore tried to be non-violent, even while working in law enforcement, and was known as "The Sheriff Without A Gun."

"When I arrest someone, I believe my approach is more important than my authority," he told a reporter in 1978. "I never insult a suspect. I never threaten him....Usually, I have no trouble."

After retiring as sheriff, Gilmore went on to serve as a pastor in Ensley for more than three decades. -- Greene County's first black sheriff has died: Thomas Gilmore was the 'sheriff without a gun' | AL.com

Note: I had the honor of working with Tom Gilmore while he was sheriff. May he rest in peace.

August 6, 2015

"Panic Over Campaign Cash for Legal Defense"

The Alabama Political Reporter says: Word around the State House is Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) is in a panic to find sponsors for a bill that would exempt campaign contributions used for legal fees as being considered a "thing of value."

Even before Hubbard was indicted on 23 felony counts of pubic corruption, he was using campaign contributions to pay attorneys. ...

However, during the 2015 Regular Session, the Republican Supermajority codified that opinion into law and expanded it allowing public office holders to use campaign contributions for, "Legal fees and costs associated with any civil action, criminal prosecution, or investigation related to conduct reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held."

What has not been addressed is whether this new law conflicts with the ethics laws passed in 2010.

State ethics law -- Section 36-25-6 passed by the Republican Supermajority in 2010 states: "Contributions to an office holder, a candidate, or to a public official's inaugural or transitional fund shall not be converted to personal use." -- Panic Over Campaign Cash for Legal Defense