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October 18, 2015

"Hillary Clinton: Alabama remains front line of voting rights battle"

Hillary Clinton writes on Alabama is one of 17 states with no early voting. That needs to change. Alabama should make sure those who've served time have their voting rights restored. And they should eliminate the discriminatory requirement that people provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. We should be doing everything we can to get more people involved in our political process, not turning them away when they try to participate.

Alabama isn't alone. Over the past few years, many states have passed laws that make voting harder. Since the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the situation has gotten even worse. And some people --including many Republican candidates for president--would keep pushing our country in this shameful direction. -- Hillary Clinton: Alabama remains front line of voting rights battle |

March 28, 2015

Congressmen Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Conyers and Brady Reintroduce Voter Empowerment Act

From the website of Cong. John Lewis: Today, lead sponsors Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC-6), Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Robert Brady (PA-1) and more than 170 Democrats reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act in the House of Representatives. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will introduce a companion version in the Senate. The Voter Empowerment Act will help ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, will modernize our voter registration system to help more Americans participate, and takes steps to eliminate deceptive practices and voter fraud that deter voters from casting their ballots.

On March 21, 1965, thousands of protestors left Selma, Alabama and marched all the way to Montgomery to underscore the need for voting rights legislation which assured access to the ballot box for millions of Americans. Sponsors offer the VEA today as a continuation of the on-going effort to ensure that every American has an equal and fair opportunity to make their voices heard through the electoral process. At a time when some states have implemented or are planning to implement new barriers for voters who may be seniors, students, low-income Americans, members of our Armed Services, disabled, or speak English as a second language, Democrats see the need to certify their efforts to protect voting access for all Americans.

Click for a section by section description, quotes in support, or full bill text of the Voter Empowerment Act. -- Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Conyers and Brady Reintroduce Voter Empowerment Act | The Website of Congressman John Lewis, Serving the 5th Congressional District of Georgia

Comment: I recommend you start with the 9-page section-by-section summary rather than the 167-page bill.

December 24, 2014

Alabama plans to require citizenship-proof fromr voter-registration applicants reports: of Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett's last acts will be to try to implement one of the last provisions of the state's controversial immigration law that has not already been resolved - a requirement that voters show proof of citizenship to register.

Under that provision of the 2011 law, known as HB 56, people must show a driver's license or some other valid form of identification in order to register to vote. But the state never implemented it while lawyers fought over the legality of the law's broader measures, which sought to crack down on illegal immigration.

The federal courts invalidated most of that law, and the state last year reached a permanent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, agreeing to permanently black enforcement of seven provisions. Bennett announced last week, though, that the state will press ahead with the citizenship requirement now that the U.S. Senate has confirmed nominees to fill long-vacant seats on the Election Assistance Commission. That is the organization that must agree to change the federal voter registration form to comply with the state requirements.

Under the law, birth certificates, Star Alabama driver's license or nondriver ID cards, passports, naturalization documents or other documents showing U.S. citizenship would be acceptable. -- ?One of last vestiges of gutted immigration law, Alabama pushes voters for citizenship proof |

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 |

October 23, 2012

Infographic: right to vote in American history

Source: Democracy

Infographic: right to vote in American history

Source: Democracy

September 19, 2012

Mobile probate judge still trying to run a voter purge

The Mobile Press-Register ( reports: Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis today announced he plans to continue his legal fight over whether he acted within his authority to bar voters from casting ballots in precincts where they no longer lived.

Using address information from the U.S. Postal Service, Davis earlier this year discovered that some 20,000 voters have moved since registering to vote and have not updated their registration information. On the primary election in March, Davis instructed Mobile County election officials to send voters who had moved to another precinct to cast a provisional ballot at the new polling location.

Provisional ballots are not included in the initial totals on Election Day but end up counting if the Board of Registrars determines that the voter is eligible.

Davis' interpretation of the law put him at odds with the state Attorney General's Office, the Alabama Secretary of State's Office and several local voting rights activists, including one who has filed a formal ethics complaint seeking to remove him from the bench.

"The judge is out of order," said the man who filed the complaint, Jeffery Jones. "He's not conducting himself as a judge." -- Read the whole story --> Mobile County probate judge continues legal fight over voter registration, faces ethics complaint |

July 10, 2012

Mobile County considers voters who changed addresses

The Mobile Press-Register ( reports: Some 20,000 registered voters in Mobile County do not live where they signed up to vote, and Probate Judge Don Davis' efforts to deal with that in the primary election this year has drawn complaints from critics.

Davis points to three different state statutes indicating that it is illegal for voters to cast ballots in a precinct where they do not live. The Mobile County Board of Registrars, backed by an administrative rule issued by the state Secretary of State's Office in 1994, contends that people should be allowed to vote in whichever precinct they are registered.

Davis said that he is waiting for a response to a request he made in April for an attorney general's opinion, which carries the force of law absent a court order. He said he wants to make sure to get it right. ...

A pair of former political candidates, however, questioned whether the probate judge's interpretation of the law runs counter to the federal Voting Rights Act. -- Read the whole story --> Conflict arises over how to treat Mobile County voters whose addresses don?t match registration |

March 29, 2012

"Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark Jumps Into Voting Rights Fight"

TPMMuckraker reports: Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is jumping into the voting rights fight, with his group craigconnects publishing an infographic that illustrates the surge of voting restrictions that have been enacted in states around the country in recent years. ...

"I think all Americans should be concerned about these new voter restrictions," Newmark said. "Voting is our fundamental right. If the states continue to restrict who can vote, who knows where they will stop?" -- Read the whole story --> Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark Jumps Into Voting Rights Fight | TPMMuckraker

The infographic is here

June 12, 2011

"Shrinking the vote"

Daily Kos has a national roundup of trends that include Alabama: As the U.S population grows and the number of eligible voters continues to climb with each election cycle, a disturbing trend of limiting voter access to the polls is taking place. With 2012 on the horizon, states are already gearing up to ensure that barriers are installed across the voting process, from restrictions on voter registration to strict requirements at the polls. It's been called ?the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.?

Legislators justify the vast majority of this legislation by claiming they are merely attempting to prevent widespread voter fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice conducted the most extensive analysis of voter fraud allegations and concluded that proponents of voter ID laws could not find "a proven example of a single vote cast at the polls in someone else?s name that could be stopped by a pollsite photo ID rule."

Combating "voter fraud" is a red herring. It doesn't take more than a passing glance at the 2008 results map to understand why Republicans have been working so diligently to decrease the vote, especially in states where President Obama won by a slim margin. -- Read the whole post --> Daily Kos: Shrinking The Vote: Using Election Reform To Decrease Turnout

July 14, 2010

Alabama: editorial warns GOP about crossover voting (or closing the barn door after ...)

The Huntsville Times editorializes: Be careful what you ask for. It may not be what you really want.

Alabama Republicans need to ask themselves what they really want in the wake of Tuesday's GOP gubernatorial runoff between Bradley Byrne and Robert Bentley that drew lots of Democrats.

Such crossover voting is prohibited by Alabama Democratic Party rules. Republicans have no such ban in primary runoffs.

The state has come full circle on this.

Several election cycles ago, Republicans were the ones "crossing over" to vote in the Democratic gubernatorial runoff. -- Read the whole editorial --> EDITORIAL: Political parties and election rules |

May 20, 2010

Alabama: still disfranchising the arrested and convicted

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: With just one day left to register for the June 1 primary, the issue of prisoner and felon voting is once again in the spotlight, and at least one community organizer is concerned that a lack of knowledge and confusion over the issue could disenfranchise thousands of people who are eligible to vote this year.

The Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, a Dothan minister, said state and local officials continue to provide erroneous information about which felonies disqualify people to vote in the state and which ones don't.

He recently conducted a telephone survey of officials in county boards of registrars, city and county jails, and state prisons about inmates' voting rights.

"There is still a lot of confusion on who can vote and who cannot and what crimes involve moral turpitude and what crimes do not," he said. "We find ourselves doing a lot of damage control." Read the whole article -->Advocate: Alabama prisoners still being disenfranchised | | Montgomery Advertiser

November 27, 2009

Birmingham: is there a city council president?

The Birmingham News reports: The Birmingham City Coun­cil's vote to select Steven Hoyt as president pro tempore may have violated the Mayor-Council Act and be invalid, city attorneys and at least one council member said Wednesday. ...

The contention comes be­cause Roderick Royal nomi­nated Hoyt for pro tem and then voted on the nomination. Royal moments earlier had been selected council presi­dent, which means he be­came acting mayor. The mayor, according to the Mayor-Council Act, cannot vote with the council. ...

J. Richmond Pearson, the council's legal adviser, said the dispute should be set­tled in court. ...

State Rep. Demetrius Newton, a former Birming­ham city attorney, said the controversy over the vote highlights the need for more clarity in the Mayor­Council Act. Newton said the question should be re­solved by legislation rather than in court. ...

Adding to the confusion, Newton contends Coun­cilwoman Carole Smither­man also should have ab­stained during the voting because of her previous role as acting mayor. -- Read the whole article --> Birmingham City Council's pro tem vote for Steven Hoyt may be invalid | Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

March 8, 2009

United Kingdom: 16-year olds will get the right to vote

Scotland on Sunday reports: THE voting age could soon be reduced from 18 to 16, in a move which could see students sitting their Highers being able to vote in the next Holyrood elections.

Energy minister Ed Miliband, who is in charge of Labour's manifesto for the UK elections, used a speech to the Scottish Labour conference yesterday to reinforce his support for the move. ...

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suggested he would give his backing to the idea, while Conservative leader David Cameron is also said to support the move.

Westminster MPs could legislate for the Scottish Parliament as well, meaning the Holyrood elections in 2011 could be among the first to be held under a new system, if the Government decides to press ahead. -- 16-year-old Scots set to get vote by 2011 election - Scotland on Sunday

March 2, 2009

Alabama: felon-voting bill draws opposition

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Two bills currently in the state Legislature could clear up the decades-old debate about whether felons should be allowed to vote, but advocates for felons' voting rights say the bills would be worse than the existing law.

The Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, founder of The Ordinary People Society, which is based in Dothan, said the bills would roll back gains made under the current law that gives felons who haven't committed crimes of "moral turpitude" a chance to vote. Last year Glasgow, with the backing of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, sued the state Department of Corrections so he could provide voter registration information to incarcerated people who were eligible to vote. ...

The House Constitution and Election Committee advanced a bill during the second week of the session that would define moral turpitude and which crimes involve it.

The proposed bill would increase the number of crimes that involve moral turpitude from about 15 to more than 70 and revoke the voting rights of people who commit those crimes. The same committee also will decide the fate of a bill on Attorney General Troy King's agenda that would go even further than the moral turpitude bill, revoking the voting rights of anyone who commits a felony. -- Felons' voting rights back on agenda | | Montgomery Advertiser

February 12, 2009

Alabama: bill would list disfranchising crimes of "moral turpitude"

The Birmingham News reports: State law finally would have a definitive list of 70 felonies that disqualify from voting people convicted of the crimes, if a bill cleared by a legislative panel Wednesday becomes law.

Alabama's constitution disqualifies from voting anyone convicted of a "felony involving moral turpitude." But state law has no comprehensive list of those felonies.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Jimmy Martin, D-Clanton, would write into the law a list of felonies that involve moral turpitude.

The constitution and elections committee of the state House of Representatives voted 8-3 for the bill, which could be debated by the full 105-member House as soon as next week. -- If it becomes law, bill would list 70 felonies that disqualify people from voting -

Note: the bill may be downloaded here.

January 27, 2009

District of Columbia: voting rights bill to be reintroduced

The Washington Times reports: Supporters of the long effort to secure D.C. voting rights will return with renewed optimism Tuesday to Capitol Hill, where new legislation faces its first vote.

With a Democrat as president and more Democrats in Congress, the legislation should pass the House easily, but it still faces a close vote in the Senate.

The D.C. House Voting Rights Act will be reintroduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat and the District's non-voting House member, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

The legislation would give one House vote to the District and a fourth one to Utah, which narrowly missed getting an additional seat after the last U.S. Census. Utah, which traditionally leans to the right politically, now has one Democrat and two Republicans in the House and is the next to receive a new seat based on the last census. -- Washington Times - D.C. voting rights act gets another chance

October 27, 2008

Georgia: Challenged ballots to be cast by questioned-citizenship voters

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: The state of Georgia must allow persons whose citizenship has been questioned in a new voter verification system the opportunity to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 elections, a three-judge court ruled Monday.

The court also ordered Secretary of State Karen Handel to “make diligent and immediate efforts to notify, in a uniform manner, every person whose voter registration presently remains flagged.” Those voters must be told that they can vote by a “challenged ballot,” if necessary, and that there is a discrepancy in the voters’ registration information, the court said. -- Court: ‘Flagged’ citizens may vote

The opinion and order of the Court is here.

October 20, 2008

Michigan: GOP admits scheme to use mortgage foreclosure lists in voter challenges

Emptywheel reports at Democrats and Republicans have settled the suit seeking to prevent Michigan Republicans from using foreclosure lists to challenge voters. The MDP statement on the settlement says:

An agreement announced today by Obama for America, the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the Michigan Republican Party, the Michigan Democratic Party, the Macomb County Republican Party, the Macomb County Democratic Party, and plaintiffs Duane Maletski, Sharon Lopez, and Frances M. Zick protects the voting rights of foreclosure victims. The settlement acknowledges the existence of an illegal scheme by the Republicans to use mortgage foreclosure lists to deny foreclosure victims their right to vote. This settlement has the force of law behind it and ensures that Republicans cannot disenfranchise families facing foreclosure. [my emphasis]

-- MI Republicans Admit to Illegal Foreclosure Scheme, “Surrender” to Democrats

October 11, 2008

Alabama: suit over 'moral turpitude' dismissed

AP reports: A Montgomery judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to clarify which ex-felons in Alabama can register to vote, in a decision that means the issue won’t be resolved before the Nov. 4 election.

Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey said the ACLU’s clients lacked legal standing to sue because they had not taken steps necessary to do so. Two had not tried to register to vote. The third client had attempted to register, but had not exhausted possible appeals in probate court before going to the circuit court.

Because of that, “this court lacks jurisdiction to even decide the merits of the case,” McCooey wrote.

ACLU attorney Bobby Segall said Friday it’s very likely his clients will appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, but even if the court expedited the case, there would be no way to obtain a ruling before an Oct. 24 deadline for new voters to qualify for the ballot.

If the issue can’t be resolved before the election Nov. 4, Segall wants to get a court ruling before 2010, when many major state offices will be on the ballot. -- Felon voting suit by ACLU dismissed

October 9, 2008

Alabama: another judge, another year, and another way to dodge having to decide what a "crime involving moral turpitude" is

AP reports: Voter registrars could have to wait awhile longer to learn which felons can vote — and just what constitutes "moral turpitude" — because a judge said Wednesday she may dismiss a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union over the issue.

With voter registration at record levels, county voter registrars have been struggling to figure out which ex-felons can sign up and which can't.

During a hearing Wednesday, Montgomery Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey told ACLU attorneys she is troubled that the ACLU's three plaintiffs filed suit before they filled out voter registration forms and were officially rejected by county voter registrars. ...

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of three ex-felons who want to vote in the Nov. 4 presidential election. One of the three had actually tried to register in Jefferson County, but was never given a form because a registrar told her she couldn't vote. -- Judge may dismiss Ala. lawsuit over felon voting

October 6, 2008

Alabama: "Confusion reigns in Alabama over ex-felons' ability to vote"

A Birmingham News report begins: When James Solomon went to register to vote earlier this year, he said he was told he couldn't vote because of a past conviction for cocaine possession.

That was in direct contrast to advice given by the Secretary of State's Office that drug possession is not a crime that strips someone of their voting rights. ...

Less than a month shy of a historic election expected to bring record turnout, there still is uncertainty over who is eligible to vote in Alabama. State officials have given boards of registrars conflicting lists of felony convictions that bar a person from voting.

And registrars, already swamped with new voter applications, have the difficult task of sorting out who is and who isn't eligible to vote. ...

A statewide computer system for the past 11 months has been noting convictions for more than 400 crimes that Gov. Bob Riley's administration deemed to be felonies of moral turpitude - even though officials with the Administrative Office of Courts said they were assured by Riley's office only a shorter list of 70 felonies developed by the attorney general's office were being checked. -- Confusion reigns in Alabama over ex-felons' ability to vote -

October 2, 2008

Alabama: Governor disfranchising thousands (document attached)

The Birmingham News reports: Eligible Alabama voters are being wrongly denied the right to cast a ballot in the coming election because of the way Gov. Bob Riley's administration defines a crime of moral turpitude, state court administrators said Wednesday.

The Administrative Office of Courts sent a memo Tuesday to county probate judges, sheriffs and circuit clerks saying that people who should be allowed to vote have been stricken from the voter rolls based on information from Riley's administration over which felony convictions bar people from voting.

AOC Director Callie Dietz and Legal Director Griffin Sikes Jr. told election officials that they hoped the memo would help them identify people who have been wrongly denied their right to vote during the past 18 months and notify them that they are eligible to vote Nov. 4. ...

The dispute centers on what felony convictions bar people from voting in Alabama. The state constitution says people convicted of felony crimes of "moral turpitude" cannot vote until they get their rights restored. However, state law does not define a crime of moral turpitude.

The position of the governor's office is that 480 of the state's 575 felony crimes are crimes of moral turpitude. Emerson said the legal staff "put in hundreds of hours into researching both case law and statutory law to come up with a comprehensive list of crimes of moral turpitude."

The AOC Legal Division takes a stricter view and lists only 70 felonies that a court, Alabama law or the state attorney general's opinion have determined should bar someone from voting. -- State courts say Alabama wrongly bars people from voting -

The memo is here.

August 15, 2008

"Obama's Felon Disenfranchisement Challenge"

Dan Filler comments on Faculty Lounge about this Washington Post story: The reality is that Obama, like all Democrats, is likely to benefit when convicted offenders are allowed to vote. At the same time, one thing Obama cannot afford is to be seen as a person seeking the felon vote - both because being a friend of criminals is bad political karma and because, in Obama s particular racialized position, this could have the effect of making him look like he s the candidate of Black criminals. This is a complicated position for Democrats. And it s going to get much more complicated as the election approaches.

If past elections are any guide, we can expect Republican election officials to work aggressively to weed out convicted felons from voting rolls. Sometimes - maybe even often - this effort will result in fully eligible voters being expunged from the rolls. Eligible voters will come in different types, most commonly those where there is a name mix-up and those who are convicted felons, but have - for one reason or another - regained the right to vote. But the very act of fighting for the rights of those entitled to vote who have been erroneously disenfranchised a much less politically charged project than Mitchell s work in Florida will trigger many of the complicated issues I ve discussed above. And the very fact that Obama may find it difficult to aggressively advocate for those entitled to vote may embolden Republicans to choose an extra-aggressive expungement strategy.

The Democrats cannot afford to abandon any of these prospective voters. And the Republicans may feel that they cannot afford to underenforce felon disenfranchisement laws - particularly in swing states - since these voters are likely to tilt to the left. But there are risks for everyone - including Republicans, who must worry that expungement strategies will be seen as explicitly designed to suppress African American vote numbers.

Keep your eyes open. I d be very surprised if this issue doesn t rear it s head, perhaps with some intensity, in the weeks before the election. -- The Faculty Lounge: Obama s Felon Disenfranchisement Challenge

August 12, 2008

GOP training lawyers to "voter fraud"

The Wall Street Journal report begins: As Barack Obama tries to draw hundreds of thousands of new voters to the polls, Republicans are beginning to scrutinize registrants' eligibility as both sides draw a major battle line over voting rights.

Republicans are moving to examine surges in voter registrations in some states. A Republican lawyers group held a national training session on election law over the weekend that included campaign attorneys for Sen. John McCain and other Republican leaders. One session discussed how party operatives can identify and respond to instances of voter fraud. ...

Obama campaign general counsel Bob Bauer last Tuesday said in a memorandum to campaign supporters that their own voter legal defense operation is under way, earlier than those of previous Democratic campaigns, including legal counsel on the ground in 50 states. The campaign is working closely with the Democratic Party, which said it has spent three years building a voter-protection program that includes more than 18 paid staff and 7,000 lawyers. The personnel deployed Aug. 1 and are dealing directly with local elections officials.

In just about every election, understaffed polling sites, malfunctioning voting machines and outdated voter data are reported. Such bureaucratic problems often are rolled into the divide between Democrats and Republicans over who should vote and how -- a battle that has become more intense since the 2000 Florida recount. -- Voter Registration Is the New Battleground -

August 1, 2008

Cherokee Nation: appeals court allows Freedmen's suit to continue, but only against officials

The National Law Journal reports: The descendants of "Freedmen," former African slaves owned by the Cherokee Nation, may go forward with a lawsuit against the tribe's officers in which they claim they were barred from voting in two tribal elections because they lacked an ancestral link to the "Blood Roll" of native Cherokees, a federal appellate court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held on July 29 that the tribe itself was protected from suit by sovereign immunity, but that immunity did not extend to tribal officers. Vann v. Kempthorne, No. 07-5024.

The sovereign immunity question drew the panel back into the tribe's history, a history marked by a "stain" shared by the United States, it said: ownership of African slaves. In an 1866 treaty with the United States, the Cherokee Nation renounced slavery and involuntary servitude, and promised to extend "all the rights of native Cherokees" to the former Cherokee slaves, who came to be known as "Freedmen."

In 1896, Congress directed the Dawes Commission to create membership rolls for the so-called Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, which included the Cherokee Nation. The rolls for the Cherokees, completed in 1907, resulted in two lists: a "Blood Roll" for native Cherokees, and a "Freedmen Roll" for former slaves and their descendants. The panel explained that the lists serve an important function because the tribal constitution of 1976 provides that citizenship in the Cherokee Nation must be proven by reference to the Dawes Commission Rolls. -- - Descendants of Former African Slaves Owned by Cherokee Nation May Proceed With Suit

July 26, 2008

Alabama: parties and candidates have deadline for county commission election

The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County's Democrat and Republican parties will pick candidates by Aug. 6 in the court-ordered election for the County Commission's District 1 seat, a Circuit Court judge ruled Friday.

Independents can qualify to run if they get 914 signatures of District 1 voters by Aug. 27, according to a written decision filed by Circuit Judge Scott Vowell.

The Alabama Supreme Court ordered the Nov. 4 vote in a ruling about a months-long legal dispute over how to fill the commission vacancy created when Larry Langford resigned to become Birmingham mayor. ...

Vowell's order did not address whether officials would have to obtain clearance from the U.S. Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A lawyer for Attorney General Troy King said last week his office would seek clearance, but would appeal any order from Vowell setting a deadline. -- Parties told to pick candidates for Jefferson County Commission seat by Aug. 6-

Disclosure: I represent one of the parties in this case.

July 22, 2008

Alabama: new suit on felon voting filed (with court docs attached)

The Birmingham News reports: A lawsuit claims the state of Alabama is violating the constitutional rights of thousands of convicted felons by denying them the right to vote.

The suit, filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama, contends that Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman and county registrars are wrongly requiring thousands of felons to apply to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have voting rights restored. ...

The Alabama Constitution says people convicted of crimes of "moral turpitude" cannot vote until they get their rights restored. However, the state constitution does not define a crime of moral turpitude.

The Legislature in 2003 named 15 felonies that warrant the criminal losing his or her voting rights, and the ACLU's lawsuit asserts that only the Legislature can set voting requirements.

But ACLU lawyer Sam Brooke said his group believes local registrars are improperly going beyond that law and denying others the right to register, partly based on a 2005 opinion issued by the attorney general's office. -- ACLU lawsuit challenges Alabama voting practice-

Attached are the complaint, motion for preliminary injunction, and motion for class certification. Thanks to the ACLU of Alabama for sending them to me.

July 1, 2008

Florida: suit filed against write-in candidate "loophole"

The Tampa Tribune reports: Two registered voters have filed a lawsuit in Pasco County challenging the write-in candidate "loophole" in state election law.

They say the provision unfairly closed the Aug. 26 primary election in a county commission race, effectively disenfranchising 170,000 registered Democrats, Independents and minor party voters in Pasco.

Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1998 to let all voters participate in primaries if all candidates in a race come from the same political party. In 2000, however, the state Division of Elections ruled that the primary is not open if the race includes any write-in candidates, who are considered general election candidates.

State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, has been working to close the loophole, which he said politicians are exploiting. -- Suit Targets Write-In Candidates Loophole

June 18, 2008

Naturalization agency rejecting many on "dubious grounds"

The New York Sun reports: As the federal citizenship agency and the FBI say they are picking up the pace to eliminate a backlog of citizenship applications, immigrants anticipating decisions on petitions they filed months, and in many cases years, earlier shouldn't necessarily be resting easier.

Some lawyers who handle naturalization cases say U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicators appear to be more eager to reject citizenship applications of late, meaning some of those aiming to be citizens in time to vote in the presidential elections in November may find themselves left out. ...

The number of denials on dubious legal grounds seems to have ticked upward, according to some lawyers in New York.

An immigration attorney at the firm Bretz & Coven, Matthew Guadagno, said he has handled a slew of recent cases in which he said applicants were denied unfairly for long-ago criminal convictions or for mistakes on their application forms, which he says the USCIS sometimes labels fraud even if the mistakes are inadvertent. -- Citizenship Backlog Could Thwart Would-Be Voters - June 18, 2008 - The New York Sun

June 17, 2008

Virginia: Governor and civil rights groups pushing felons' voting restoration

The Washington Post reports: Civic and social organizations are teaming with Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to try to add thousands of nonviolent offenders to the voting rolls in time for the November election, a move that has angered Republicans who say the effort is designed to help Democratic Sen. Barack Obama s presidential campaign.

Under Virginia s constitution, people convicted of a felony automatically lose their right to vote for life, which has resulted in an estimated 300,000 residents being disenfranchised, even though they are not in prison.

But a Virginia governor can restore a felon s voting rights. Under a process set up by former governor Mark R. Warner D , felons convicted of nonviolent crimes can apply to have their voting rights restored if they have a clean record for three years after their sentence has been completed. People convicted of violent felonies, which in Virginia includes selling drugs, have to wait five years.

Earlier this year, Kaine D promised that his administration would expedite a review of applications from nonviolent felons who submit their papers by Aug. 1. -- Groups Push to Restore Va. Felons Voting Rights -

June 12, 2008

Scotland: government wants to lower voting age to 16, but UK government blocks it

The Herald reports: The SNP government is determined to give 16-year-olds the vote and is demanding that Westminster hand over the power to allow this, it was claimed yesterday.

The minister for parliamentary business told an electoral reform conference yesterday that the government was determined to press ahead with a staged approach, first giving youngsters the right to vote in health board elections and then progressing that to council and Holyrood polls.

But this would require a change in the law at Westminster and there was no indication yesterday that the Ministry of Justice was minded to consider such a change.

Bruce Crawford, Minister for Parliament, told the Electoral Reform Society that ministers had a plan to extend the franchise in order to re-engage young citizens, and avoid the current anomalies faced by young adults. -- SNP in move to lower voting age to 16

June 9, 2008

California: Dems support, GOP opposes teen voting bill

The Sacramento Bee reports: Voting is as American as mom and apple pie – the more votes cast, the better for democracy, right?

Not necessarily.

Efforts to gradually increase California's pool of voters by targeting young teenagers are splitting the Capitol along party lines.

Democrats support, Republicans oppose.

"There's red apple pie and blue apple pie," quipped John J. Pitney, government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

The issue came to a head recently with Assembly Bill 1819, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, qualifying them automatically when they reach 18. -- Politics - Parties split over teen voting bill -

May 28, 2008

Mississippi: 5th Circuit vacates party registration and voter I.D. case

AP reports: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a ruling that would have forced Mississippians to register by political party and to show photo identification at the polls to be able to vote.

The Mississippi Democratic Party sued in 2006 to keep non-Democrats from voting in its primaries. -- WLOX-TV and - Building South Mississippi Together |This Hour: Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment:

Thanks to Steve Rankin for sending me the opinion. Here are the first two paragraphs of the opinion:

Plaintiffs Mississippi Democratic Party and Mississippi Democratic Executive Committee filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to overturn as unconstitutional Mississippi’s semi-closed primary1 statute, Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-575. They succeeded beyond their expectations when the district court declared the statute unconstitutional and fashioned a sweeping injunction. that required not only party registration but also photo identification in order to vote in a party’s primary. The court’s ruling spawned a free-for-all on appeal. Plaintiffs themselves cross-appeal the mandatory photo ID requirement. Intervenors NAACP and the Mississippi Republican Executive Committee also challenge separate portions of the decree. The state is divided: defendant Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood argues that plaintiffs’ claims are not justiciable, while governor Haley Barbour and the Secretary of State have filed a brief supporting photo IDs for voters. In the meantime, the state legislature has been debating changes in the primary law. We will put the parties out of their litigation misery.

Because plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that their claims involve an actual case or controversy, the claims were not justiciable and should not have been addressed by the district court. The judgment is REVERSED and the injunction VACATED.

Mississippi: "It's almost like I was exiled from the country"

The Daily Journal reports: When asked about his favorite candidate in this year s presidential race, 31-year-old Steven Hubbard didn t hesitate to say, "Obama's my man."

But that's where his political voice ends. Hubbard, a convicted felon from Tupelo, is one of nearly 150,000 inmates and convicted felons in Mississippi who've lost their right to vote, nearly 7 percent of the state s adult population.

Even though he doesn't deny guilt for the forgery conviction that caused him to lose his right to vote, Hubbard said stripping him of his right to vote while he was in prison was un-American.

"I committed a crime and I paid my debt to society for that crime by serving time in prison," said Hubbard. "But when I was released, my punishment didn't end. Being stripped of the right to vote is not fair to convicted felons who pay their debt to society and serve the time given to them by the courts. It's almost like I was exiled from the country. If I can't vote, then I can't be an American, right?"

Mississippi has a procedure that would allow Hubbard to have his rights restored. But with the presidential election less than six months away, some people have begun to wonder about the effect of having so many voting-age Americans disenfranchised, particularly black voters. -- Groups debate whether felons should regain the right to vote

May 16, 2008

Arizona: citizenship process operating too slowly to allow voting this fall

AP reports: Although immigration officials in Phoenix are churning out record numbers of new U.S. citizens, critics say federal officials aren t working fast enough so many immigrants won t become citizens in time to vote in November.

The Phoenix office for Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to grant citizenship to 2,000 legal immigrants this month, more than twice the usual 800 for May.

Charles Harrell, acting district director of the CIS office in Phoenix, said the immigration service is responding to a surge of applications that poured in last year.

Citizenship applications spike every four years preceding a presidential election, but the record surge last year was triggered by various immigration-related factors, including a 70 percent fee increase that prompted thousands of immigrants to apply before the increase took effect Aug. 1. -- Feds coping with backlog for U.S. citizenship before election

May 8, 2008

Indiana: first time voter prevented from voting in Dem primary

The Star Press reports: A first-time voter said he was not permitted to vote in Tuesday s Democratic Primary because a poll inspector believed he was a Republican.

The reason the poll inspector believed Ball State University student Kyle Ellis, 21, was a Republican was because Ellis told the inspector he registered to vote as a Republican.

"I realize now that is incorrect," Ellis said Wednesday.
It's a common misconception that Indiana voters declare political affiliation when they register to vote. Instead, voters decide party affiliation in primary elections when they choose whether to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary.

The concept is known as an "open primary."

Having never voted before, Ellis would have never officially declared an affiliation with either party before Tuesday's election. -- Voter says he was banned from casting Democratic ballot | The Star Press - - Muncie, IN

April 29, 2008

Tennessee: woman arrested for voting-while-felon

The Leaf Chronicle reports: A Clarksville woman has been arrested on three counts of illegal voting.

Carla Thomas Smith, 36, who gave a 718-1/2 Central Ave. address, was booked Friday into the Montgomery County Jail and has since been released on a $1,000 bond.

According to court documents, Smith has a felony conviction, which deprives her of voting rights. ...

The indictment against Smith alleges she broke the law when she registered to vote in August 2004, when she voted in November 2004 and when she voted in November 2006. -- Woman arrested on 3 counts of illegal voting | | The Leaf Chronicle

April 4, 2008

Cherokee Nation: CBC threatens housing funding over exclusion of Freedmen

The Hill reports: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have promised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid D-Nev. that they will try to block a Native American housing assistance bill if the measure does not include language that prevents the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma from receiving any of the benefits.

The House included such a prohibition in its Indian housing assistance bill passed in September. But the Senate version does not include similar language. ...

The dispute between the CBC and the Cherokee Nation arose last year after the tribe amended its constitution to exclude the Freedmen — a group of freed slaves who have been members since the Civil-War era – from tribal membership. Black lawmakers have charged the tribe is ignoring the Treaty of 1886, an agreement the Cherokees signed with the U.S. government that gave tribal citizenship to the Freedmen. ...

Cherokee leaders argue that as a sovereign nation they have a right to amend their own constitution. -- - CBC warns Reid on Cherokee funds

March 15, 2008

Citizenship agency promises to process dozens, maybe even thousands, in time for voter registration

The New York Times reports: Immigration officials said on Friday that they expected to complete about 930,000 citizenship applications in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, reducing a huge backlog in a time frame that would allow many new citizens to register to vote in the November elections.

The projection from the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency came as its director, Emilio T. Gonzalez, praised his staff in a statement, saying it had reduced overall waiting times for immigrants seeking to become American citizens to a maximum of 16 months, from an 18-month projection Mr. Gonzalez made in January.

But the agency’s internal figures on the applications that remain in the pipeline indicate that to meet its goal it will have to work much faster than it has in recent months. Of 1,051,186 naturalization applications the agency is processing, 75 percent are still in the early phases of being logged in and placed in line for scheduling of several required steps, the figures show.

Only 262,780 applications are in the time-consuming later phases, when applicants must submit fingerprints and pass required background checks, and English and civics tests, according to the figures, which were provided by Congressional staff members. -- Goal Set for Reducing Backlog on Citizenship Applications - New York Times

March 7, 2008

What do we want? Citizenship. When do we want it? Now.

The New York Times reports: A lawsuit filed Thursday in a federal court in New York by Latino immigrants seeks to force immigration authorities to complete hundreds of thousands of stalled naturalization petitions in time for the new citizens to vote in November.

The class-action suit was brought by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of legal Hispanic immigrants in the New York City area who are eager to vote and have been waiting for years for the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to finish their applications. The suit demands that the agency meet a nationwide deadline of Sept. 22 to complete any naturalization petitions filed by March 26.

Latino groups hope to summon the clout of the federal courts to compel the Bush administration to reduce a backlog of citizenship applications that swelled last year. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, more than one million citizenship petitions were backed up in the pipeline by the end of December, the majority from Latino immigrants.

Despite protests over the delays from lawmakers, Latino groups and immigrant advocates, the immigration agency is currently projecting wait times of 16 months to 18 months to process the petitions. -- Latinos Seek Citizenship in Time for Voting - New York Times

March 5, 2008

Kentucky: governor makes it easier to get voting rights restored

The Herald-Leader reports: Felons who complete their sentences can get their voting rights restored more easily under changes to the pardon process announced Tuesday by Gov. Steve Beshear.

Beshear said he will drop requirements for an essay and three character references, both imposed by previous Gov. Ernie Fletcher. He also will revoke a $2 fee.

Under the "barriers" placed by Fletcher, the number of felons whose voting rights were restored shrank from more than 600 a year to about 250 a year. ...

About 129,000 Kentuckians can't vote because of a felony conviction, Beshear said. He said corrections officials will help interested felons with pardon applications before their release from prison or jail, and his office will process more than 1,500 applications left behind by Fletcher, plus 176 new applications filed since Jan. 1. -- Restoring voting rights eased

March 2, 2008

Alabama: Rev. Glasgow's effort to get voting rights restored to ex-felons

The New York Times reports: The Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, onetime criminal and founder of a ministry called The Ordinary People Society, spent years helping people with criminal records regain the right to vote in Alabama, where an estimated 250,000 people are prohibited from voting because of past criminal activity.

Then he discovered that many of them had never actually lost the right.

Because of a quirk in its Constitution, Alabama disqualifies from voting only those who have committed a “felony involving moral turpitude.” Those who have committed other felonies — like marijuana possession or drunken driving — can cast ballots even if they are still in prison, according to the state attorney general.

But it has been slow work cajoling public officials to enforce and publicize the law. Until Friday, the secretary of state’s Web site advised, incorrectly, that those with any kind of felony conviction could not register unless they had served their time and their right to vote had been restored by the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Because neither the Legislature nor the attorney general has offered a definitive list of crimes involving moral turpitude, there is no way of knowing how many inmates are eligible to vote. But state agencies generally agree that those convicted of drug possession — at least 3,000 of Alabama’s 29,000 prison inmates and thousands more on probation — are eligible. Most felons and former felons, however, assume that they have lost the right to vote. -- In Alabama, a Fight to Regain Voting Rights Some Felons Never Lost - New York Times

January 29, 2008

California: Wanted -- unmotivated, suspicious voters

The New York Times reports: The conventional political wisdom in delegate-rich California is that the roughly three million registered voters without a party affiliation are ripe for the picking by the Democratic candidates for president.

Democrats began allowing independents to participate in their party’s presidential primary in 2004, and campaigns now see them — the fastest-growing group of registrants in California — as potentially pushing a candidate over the top in the primary on Feb. 5. ...

(Republicans only allow their own party members to vote; the state’s American Independent Party also allows decline-to-state voters to cast ballots in its primary, but the party’s presence is very small.) ...

It is also true that decline-to-state voters must be quite motivated — and knowledgeable — to cast a ballot in the Democratic primary. The voters must ask for a Democratic ballot at their polling station; otherwise, they are provided with a nonpartisan ballot that has statewide measures only. -- California’s Unaffiliated Voters Are Sometimes Unreachable

January 23, 2008

Alabama: "Let my people vote" campaign

WSFA TV reports: An organization working to restore the voting rights of ex-felons is touring the state. On Tuesday, the Let My People Vote Campaign stopped in Montgomery to get their message out.

For the past five years the Let My People Vote campaign has traveled to prisons educating and informing current and ex-prisoners that certain felonies should not result in a loss of voting rights. -- WSFA TV Montgomery, AL - Let My People Vote Campaign Stops in the Capitol City

January 22, 2008

Florida: MLK Unity Breakfast honors Gov. Crist

The Miami Herald reports: As the nation celebrated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s quest for justice, Gov. Charlie Crist was honored Monday for reforming state clemency rules and helping the family of Martin Lee Anderson, the black teenager who died in a North Florida boot camp.

Crist said he was humbled by accolades at the 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast at Jungle Island in Miami. ...

Last year, the Board of Executive Clemency, chaired by Crist, approved a rule change that almost automatically restores the civil rights of many ex-offenders who have completed their sentences. The change does not apply to murderers and sex offenders.

State Sen. Frederica Wilson said the group honored Crist not only for his support of Anderson's family but also for his efforts to make it easier for Floridians convicted of minor crimes to recover their right to vote. Crist promised black leaders he would work on the issue during his gubernatorial campaign, she said. -- Crist is hailed as civil rights hero - 01/22/2008 -

Florida: felons' voting rights restored, but with long delays

NPR's All Things Considered reports: Shortly after he was elected a year ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist pushed through changes that make it easier for released felons to get their civil rights restored. That process, though, has left many dissatisfied.

Only about 45,000 of some 950,000 people eligible have had their voting rights restored. The ACLU and other groups have been holding seminars to reach out to felons and have started a campaign to get them registered to vote. -- NPR : Florida Falls Short in Restoring Felons' Voting Rights

January 18, 2008

Florida: 11th Circuit hears argument on SSN-matching

AP reports: Tens of thousands of Floridians will be barred from voting in the 2008 national election if a state voter registration law is allowed to go back into effect, lawyers for minority groups said Friday.

In a hearing before a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, lawyers for the Florida NAACP and other groups asked that a temporary injunction against the 2005 law stay in place.

The law requires that information on voter applications match driver's license or Social Security card databases. Florida officials - still haunted by the election of 2000 - say the law is a centerpiece of their efforts to prevent fraud and restore public confidence in the electoral process.

But the law created a system in which a simple mistake on a voter registration application can knock would-be voters out of an election, even if the present a valid driver's license or passport.

"If the injunction is not upheld and if the law is allowed to take effect, tens of thousands of Florida residents will be denied their right to vote because of a typo," said Justin Levitt, the New York-based lawyer arguing on behalf of the Florida NAACP and its co-plainitffs. --

December 13, 2007

Iowa: can/will college kids actually in the caucus?

Michael Scherer writes on Salon's '08 Roadies blog: The clock is ticking on the Iowa caucuses, with just 22 days before zero hour, which means it's time to address the ever-present specter of electoral fraud. For decades, the Iowa caucuses have been relatively clean affairs, unlike in South Carolina, where muck rules. In part, this has to do with the process itself, which is so Byzantine that for Democrats it looks more like musical chairs than voting. (For those who want to understand how it works, see here and here.)

But there is a bad moon rising. For several weeks now, David Yepsen, the reigning dean of the Iowa political press, has been writing columns that portend evil on the horizon. At the end of November, he wrote a column titled "The Illinois Caucus," which led with these ominous words:

Barack Obama's campaign is telling Iowa college students they can caucus for him even if they aren't from Iowa. His campaign offers that advice in a brochure being distributed on college campuses in the state. A spokesman said it's legal and that 50,000 of the fliers are being distributed. The brochure says: "If you are not from Iowa, you can come back for the Iowa caucus and caucus in your college neighborhood."

Sounds scary and outrageous, right? It's not. Iowa law is very clear. Out-of-state students attending Iowa schools are allowed to caucus, as long as they don't also vote or caucus in their home state. Never mind what the "spokesman said." But this fact did not assuage Yepsen. He argues that the law is not the point. "These are the Iowa caucuses," he continues. "Asking people who are 'not from Iowa' to participate in them changes the nature of the event." -- '08 Roadies - Salon

December 6, 2007

Virginia: GOP voters must sign a pledge [or maybe not]

The Washington Post reports: The loyalty pledge to the Republican Party that Virginia voters will be required to sign if they vote in the state's GOP presidential primary on Feb. 12 is another attempt by the party to police the open primary system.

On Feb. 12, a GOP primary voter will have to sign a piece of paper that says, "I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for President."

Party officials said Wednesday they are worried that Democrats and independents have infiltrated past GOP nominating contests. The state does not require voters to register by political party, which means a voter can decide on the day of the primary whether to participate in the Republican or Democratic primary.

Political analysts say it is rare for a partisan voter aligned with one party to vote in the other party's nominating contest. But some conservatives say Democrats and independents helped Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) win his 1996 primary against James C. Miller III. In 2000, Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) urged Democrats and independents to vote for him in Virginia's GOP presidential primary. But McCain lost to George W. Bush by 59,000 votes. -- Virginia GOP Gets Strict on Voting -

Update (6 Dec 2007) from Rosanna Bencoach, Policy Manager, Virginia State Board of Elections: The party’s State Central Committee on 11/30 voted to not require a pledge, overturning the request made by the party’s Chairman a few weeks earlier. The request to rescind the party’s previous request for a pledge still needs to be submitted to the State Board of Elections and formally acted on by the Board at its next meeting on 12/20.

The state law allowing the political parties to request that presidential primaries be held also allows the party to require such a pledge (Code of Virginia § 24.2-545). The provision was put in the law to allow for different and changing national party rules on delegate selection and binding. Pledges are not allowed or required in Virginia primaries for other offices, but may be (and have been) required by party rules for non-primary nominating events. Virginia has open primaries, and any voter may vote in either primary (but not in both primaries held on the same day).

To try to clear up confusion in various articles, some reporters stated that the requirement to sign the pledge before receiving the ballot was “unenforceable.” In fact, it was the content of the pledge – the promise to support the party’s nominee for president in the upcoming election – that was unenforceable. If the pledge had not been rescinded, local election officials would have been instructed that they could not provide the Republican primary ballot to any voter until they had signed the required pledge, as was last done in the 2000 Republican presidential primary in Virginia.

November 15, 2007

Alabama: judge hears testimony in Langford residency challenge

Update: WTVM NBC 13 reports: Evidence included a list of Langford's personal checks, utility bills, even a pay-per-view TV receipt showing Langford's Fairfield address of 26 years, and dated after Langford says he moved to Birmingham.

Cooper, who seemed at times to be representing himself with whispers and calls for information on a computer screen, even propped up a former campaign volunteer who told a judge he rarely saw Langford's car outside his north Birmingham loft, and talked with Cooper about going to ask Fairfield neighbors if Langford stayed at that home more often. Langford and his lawyers seemed furious, after Cooper’s previous public statements that he did not know whether a campaign worker had made visits to Langford’s neighbors, or watched his house to see living arrangements.

Defense lawyers got the man to admit he did not know Langford used an indoor parking garage at his loft, making the testimony about Langford’s car-parking habits seem hardly useful. -- Cooper Takes Latest Legal Swing at New Mayor

The Birmingham News reports: A Jefferson County judge declined to dismiss Patrick Cooper's lawsuit challenging Larry Langford's qualilfications to run for Birmingham mayor but did not rule this morning on whether Langford can serve as mayor.

Circuit Court Judge Allwin Horn spent most of this morning hearing testimony about whether Langford officially moved to Birmingham or continued to live in Fairfield. -- Judge hears challenge to Larry Langford's qualifications to run for mayor - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

The News also has links to the complaint and answer.

November 14, 2007

Idaho: GOP suit on primary rules

Following up on the story here, the suit by 71 Idaho Republicans seeking to force the Secretary of State to follow the GOP rule on eligibility to vote in the primary, the court will hear the GOP plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and the State's motion to dismiss on Thursday, 15 November. For all the scoop, go to Grassroots Idaho GOP

Thanks again to Steve Rankin for keeping me informed on this suit.

November 12, 2007

Georgia: 297 students' registration challenged in Statesboro

AP reports: Robert Greene had no problem three years ago voting for president in this college town where he studies linguistics. Now he’s fighting for the same right to vote in a city council race.

When he went to the polls Tuesday night, election workers steered the 21-year-old into a line of other Georgia Southern University students whose voter eligibility had been challenged by a small group of residents. ...

Georgia Southern students, including Greene, account for nearly all the 297 voters whose ballots have been blocked, at least temporarily, in a “town vs. gown” battle for control of Statesboro City Council.

Four residents calling themselves Statesboro Citizens for Good Government want the ballots thrown out. They say Georgia Southern students can’t legally register to vote in Statesboro unless it’s their hometown. ...

The winners of two city council elections won’t be decided until the Bulloch County Board of Registrars resolves the dispute, which will require 297 hearings — one for each challenged voter. The board may not finish before 2008. -- Locals challenge students’ voter rights

November 7, 2007

New York: trying to prove a point may lead to perjury charge

The Glen Falls, NY, Post Star reports: When Richard Hayes Phillips tried to vote in Dresden on Tuesday morning, he probably wasn’t interested in the outcome of the local races.

Phillips, a researcher who investigates election chicanery, was trying to prove that anyone who owns property in one locality can vote there — even if they don’t live in the area year-round.

But now Phillips, who has looked into voter fraud allegations in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election, could face perjury charges, according to Washington County Attorney Roger Wickes. ...

At issue is Phillips’ registering to vote in Dresden, despite already being signed up to cast a ballot in St. Lawrence County.

When filling out his voter registration form before Election Day, Phillips stated his primary residence was an address in Dresden. But on Tuesday, Phillips apparently said he didn’t live in the Washington County town, according to witnesses.

And since the form doubles as an affidavit, providing false information on the document could be considered perjury, Wickes said. --

November 2, 2007

New Jersey: proposal to remove "idiot or insane" from suffrage restriction

The Asbury Park Press reports: Should New Jersey say that "no idiot or insane person shall enjoy the right of suffrage?"

"Others," said state Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, "would say there should be language in the Constitution to prevent people from voting FOR idiots."

On the sober side, Codey has been the force behind state Public Question No. 4 on Tuesday's ballot — which calls for changing the language of the state Constitution, dumping the terms "idiot" and "insane." ...

In 1976, the appellate division of Superior Court ruled that "idiot" and "insane" lack any legal definition.

The ballot question would replace the present wording with the statement that a person would be barred from voting if that person "has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting." -- Constitution denies "idiots" right to vote

September 24, 2007

Cherokee Nation: House to hold hearing on expulsion of Freedmen

AP reports: A dispute involving race and tribal identity that was supposed to play out in the courts now seems headed for Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers want the country's second-largest Indian tribe stripped of $300 million in federal money.

U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, a California Democrat who claims Indian blood and ties to Oklahoma, is demanding the Cherokee Nation reinstate 2,800 descendants of the tribe's former black slaves, known as freedmen. She calls a March election that booted the freedmen descendants from the tribe ``ethnic cleansing'' and doesn't want to wait on the courts to decide the matter, a process that could take years.

The tribe is digging in to fight the legislation, and its chief, Chad Smith, has called Watson's bill a ``scorched-earth'' policy aimed at hurting the poorest and sickest of the nation's 270,000 members.

Neither side shows signs of giving up ground as lawmakers are expected to have a hearing on the matter next week in Washington. -- - The News On 6

August 23, 2007

Texas: fired state employee sues Rove and others

The Texas Lawyer reports: Three days after Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff at the White House, announced he will resign at the end of August, an attorney filed a suit in the 53rd District Court in Travis County, Texas, alleging that she was fired from the Texas Office of the Secretary of State for making comments to a reporter that embarrassed Rove and other Republicans.

Elizabeth Reyes filed Reyes v. Williams, et al. on Aug. 16. In her original petition, Reyes contends that the alleged reason for her termination in September 2005 was violating the Office of the Secretary of State's policy and procedures manual on press calls when she spoke to a Washington Post reporter about whether Rove's ownership of two rental cottages in Texas' Kerr County qualified him to vote in that county.

But Reyes alleges that she was fired because the statements attributed to her in the Post article -- that a county prosecutor could go after someone who votes in a place where he doesn't live -- caused political embarrassment for defendants Roger Williams, then-secretary of state, and H.S. "Buddy" Garcia, then-deputy secretary of state. -- - Lawyer Sues Rove, Former Texas Officials Over Firing

July 13, 2007

Idaho: GOP'ers seek closed primary in federal suit

The blog Grassroots Idaho GOP reproduces this press release: 71 members of the Idaho Republican Party, including a number of members of the Idaho Republican Party State Central Committee and Executive Committee filed suit in the U. S. Federal Court in Boise, Idaho to require the State of Idaho and its Chief Election Officer, Ben Ysursa, Idaho Secretary of State, to honor the Rule adopted by the Idaho Republican Party on June 2, 2007.

Idahoans are still entitled to the basic protections and rights offered by the U.S. Constitution 220 years ago, including the right of association under the First Amendment. It is our intent to ask the court to restore those rights so that Idaho Republicans may stand together and pick their own nominees for political office, just as Idaho Democrats are allowed to stand together and pick their nominee for U.S. president. -- Grassroots Idaho GOP’ers file suit in Federal Court

Thanks to Steve Rankin for the link.

July 6, 2007

Michigan: 17-year olds may be allowed to vote in primaries

The Detroit News reports: The sponsor of a proposal to extend voting rights to some 17-year-olds in Michigan says he thinks chances of its passage are growing. ...

Under Caul's proposal, 17-year-olds would be allowed to vote in a primary if they'll turn 18 before the November general election. The 2000 Census found there were about 143,500 17-year-olds in Michigan.

The resolution, awaiting a vote in the House Ethics and Elections Committee, would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. If that happens, voters will decide the amendment in November 2008. -- Proposal would let some age 17 vote

June 25, 2007

Cherokee Nation: Rep. Watson will introduce bill to cut off funding and gambling

AP reports: Legislation proposing to sever U.S. relations with the Cherokee Nation and cut off the tribe's ability to conduct gaming operations could be introduced in Congress soon.

U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., has circulated a draft of the measure, which was spurred on by a March election that temporarily stripped Cherokee membership from descendants of people the tribe owned as slaves. The legislation would cut off tribal funding from several federal agencies, suspend the Cherokees' gaming authority and allow any descendant of the so-called freedmen to sue the tribe in federal court.

In a March 3 special election, Cherokee voters approved a constitutional amendment to remove about 2,800 freedmen descendants from the tribe's rolls - and therefore eliminate their eligibility for medical and other services provided by the tribe. That vote has been challenged in the federal and tribal court systems. -- Legislation would cut funding for Cherokees : ICT [2007/06/25]

June 19, 2007

Who is mentally capable of voting?

The New York Times reports: Behind the barbed wire and thick walls of the state mental hospital here are two patients who have not been allowed to live in the outside world for 20 years. Both were found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

Still, they have voted in elections nearly every two years, casting ballots by mail. Now, however, election officials are taking steps that could ban them from voting, arguing that state law denies the vote to people with such serious psychiatric impairments. ...

Rhode Island is among a growing number of states grappling with the question of who is too mentally impaired to vote. The issue is drawing attention for two major reasons: increasing efforts by the mentally ill and their advocates to secure voting rights, and mounting concern by psychiatrists and others who work with the elderly about the rights and risks of voting by people with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

This summer, recommendations for national standards will be released by a group of psychiatrists, lawyers and others led by the American Bar Association, suggesting that people be prevented from voting only if they cannot indicate, with or without help, “a specific desire to participate in the voting process.” -- States Face Decisions on Who Is Mentally Fit to Vote

June 14, 2007

Cherokee Nation: federal court refuses to stop election

The Muskogee Phoenix reports: A federal court in Washington, D.C., denied a motion Wednesday by six Cherokee Freedmen to halt the June 23 Cherokee election.

The freedmen filed for the injunction five days after they were stripped of their Cherokee citizenship during a special election March 3.

A Cherokee Nation District Court later reinstated their citizenship and ruled they could vote in the June 23 tribal election.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy denied the injunction based on that tribal court reinstatement. -- Feds won’t stop Cherokee election

June 12, 2007

Mississippi: be careful what you wish for

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports: Mississippi Democrats may have paid a high price for winning the court fight to close primaries to registered party voters: a voter ID mandate they've fought for years to block.

The party filed suit last year against the three-member Mississippi Election Commission seeking to close primaries and allow only registered Democrats to cast ballots.

U.S District Judge Allen Pepper granted their request Friday but added a twist: Legislators need to require voter identification by April 1.

He threw in added pressure by declaring no 2008 party primaries will be held until the system is revamped, meaning the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in March could be impacted.

Both sides of the case may ask Pepper to reconsider his decision to require voter identification - an issue Democrats have steadfastly opposed. -- Primary ruling a mixed bag for Dems

June 11, 2007

Cherokee Nation: Freedman will ask federal court for injunction

The Muskogee Phoenix reports: Cherokee Freedmen say temporary reinstatement and the right to vote in the June 23 tribal election is not enough and will seek injunctive relief in a Monday hearing.

The hearing will be in federal court in Washington, D.C., before U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy, who has been presiding over the federal case.

The tribe’s March special election stripping the Freedmen of their tribal membership “denied us the right to run for election — a right we’ve had since 1866,” said Marilyn Vann, of Oklahoma City, president of the Descendants of Freedmen Association.

“They (Cherokees ) are trying to erase our identity as Cherokees. We may have the right to vote now, but we will have no Freedmen candidates to vote for.” -- Freedmen seek injunction against Cherokees in case

June 9, 2007

Mississippi: Dems win on closed primary

Richard Winger announced on Ballot Access News:
On June 8, a US District Court Judge in Mississippi ruled in favor of the Democratic Party. The issue was whether the party could require voters in its primary to be members or not. The judge, a Clinton appointee, gave the legislature until April 2008 to find a way to give the Democratic Party what is wanted. This could be a law requiring registration by party, but the judge did not say that particular solution is needed. The case is Miss. State Dem. Party v Barbour, civil action no. 4:06cv29-P-B, Judge W. Allen Pepper.

By cooperation with Richard, I can make the opinion available here.

June 3, 2007

Alabama: Supreme Court overturns felon voting decision

AP reports: The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Jefferson County judge who had ordered the state to allow ex-felons to vote had exceeded his authority in recasting the case to focus on crimes of "moral turpitude."

The justices set aside the decision of Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance Jr., who last August said a state constitutional amendment that denies voting rights to felons convicted of crimes of moral turpitude does not identify which crimes fit that definition. Vance ruled they should be allowed to vote until the state legislature specifies what crimes apply.

But the state Supreme Court ruled that there was "no evidence indicating that anyone (in this case) has been disfranchised as the result of a decision on the merits applying the definition of moral turpitude."

The case was never about the definition of moral turpitude, the court ruled. On the contrary, the court said, it was "undisputed" that the plaintiffs had been denied the right to register without any concern as to the specific nature of their felonies. -- Voting felons dispute decided

Comment: The decision of the Court is here. As one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, allow me to give my view of the Court's decision.

Basically, the whole case turned on the fact that the Attorney General of Alabama is not just the lawyer for the Secretary of State, but also the official who gets to decide what the position of "the State" should be in court. So, as soon as AG entered the case for "the State" and agreed with the plaintiffs about the meaning of the Alabama Constitution's voter qualification provision, the Supreme Court holds that the controversy was over.

Even though we lost the case, getting the Attorney General to agree with our position should turn out to be valuable in the long run.

June 1, 2007

Arizona: felons sue for voting rights

Capitol Media Services reports: Five Arizona felons filed suit Thursday challenging state laws that keep them from voting because of their criminal convictions.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Phoenix by the American Civil Liberties Union challenges a state law that denies certain rights to those who have been convicted of at least two felonies. These felons can vote only by getting permission from a judge.

Alessandra Soler Meetze, director of the ACLU's Arizona chapter, says this is the first lawsuit in the nation seeking to overturn any state law that automatically disfranchises felons.

The legal papers separately challenge another Arizona law that says those convicted of a single felony can vote, but only after they have paid all court fines and restitution.

"Denying the right to vote based on one's failure or inability to pay legal financial obligations is the modern equivalent of a poll tax and serves no compelling or legitimate governmental interest," the lawsuit states. -- ACLU sues to restore vote to some felons

Update: A copy of the complaint in the case is attached.

Cherokee Nation: Nation asks for dismissal of Freedmen lawsuit

AP reports: The Cherokee Nation says a lawsuit by descendants of Cherokee slaves to stop the tribe's general election next month should be tossed because they already have the right to vote.

The descendants are commonly called "freedmen" and earlier this month filed a motion to stop the tribe's June 23rd election in which Chief Chad Smith is running for re-election. -- Cherokees ask for motion by freedmen descendants to be tossed

May 31, 2007

Cherokee Nation: BIA disapproves anti-Freedman amendment

The Sequoyah County Times reports: The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recently notified Cherokee Nation that they will not approve a 2003 tribal constitutional amendment that removed the federal government from the tribe's constitutional approval process.

This move by the BIA could void a controversial March vote on another tribal constitutional amendment that essentially removed Freedmen descendants from the Cherokee Nation's tribal rolls. Since that March vote, a tribal injunction has been approved while Freedmen descendants battle against the vote in court.

The Cherokee Nation announced Tuesday that they received notification from BIA officials denying approval of the 2003 constitutional amendment, which was implemented by a tribal court order nearly a year ago. In 2003, tribal citizens voted to amend the 1976 version of the constitution to remove federal oversight. Also in 2003, Cherokees voted in their general election to adopt the tribe's 1999 constitution. ...

But according to the tribe, the Cherokee Nation was not seeking approval from the BIA, adding that tribal courts have ruled that Cherokee Nation could take away the approval authority it had granted the federal government. -- BIA denies approval of tribal amendment

May 24, 2007

Utah and DC: legal expers disagree on constitutionality of DC vote bill

The Salt Lake Tribune reports: There's one sure thing in the debate over giving Utah a fourth U.S. House seat and the District of Columbia its first full-voting member: legal scholars completely disagree on the plan's constitutionality.
For some, the bill is patently wrong, "the most premeditated unconstitutional act by Congress in decades," as one professor has repeatedly testified.
For others, it's clear the founding fathers didn't intend for nearly 600,000 residents of the nation's capital to go without representation in Congress.
Wednesday, several scholars testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the measure primarily meant to give the largely Democratic district a voice in Congress but balanced with a seat for Republican-dominated Utah. -- Salt Lake Tribune - Legal scholars disagree on bill's constitutionality

May 22, 2007

Cherokee Nation: voter registration re-opened for Freedmen

The Tahlequah Daily Press reports: The Cherokee Nation Election Commission has agreed to re-open voter registration for non-Indians whose citizenship status is under review following the recent passage of a constitutional amendment.

The Election Commission’s decision was enacted by a court order signed by Judge John Cripps of Cherokee Nation District Court Friday, but was quickly followed by a motion to intervene filed by Marion Hagerstrand, a tribal citizen.

Hagerstrand is asking the court to re-open the 10-day voter registration period for Freedmen to all Cherokees, and believes excluding them would have an adverse affect on the upcoming June 23 tribal election.

The non-Indians’ citizenship in the Cherokee Nation was re-instated last week, pending resolution of all citizenship appeals, by a temporary injunction granted by a tribal court. The injunction permits eligible members of the group to vote in the Cherokee Nation election on June 23. The Election Commission agreed that those affected by the temporary injunction should have equal opportunity to register to vote. The order also opens absentee ballot requests for people affected by the injunction granting temporary citizenship. -- Tribal judge signs order, citizen seeks revision

May 15, 2007

Cherokee Nation: AG agrees to order temporarily restoring citizenship rights to Freedmen

The Muskogee Phoenix reports: The attorney general of the Cherokee Nation agreed to a temporary injunction in tribal court Monday that allows descendants of the tribe’s slaves to maintain their citizenship while they appeal the constitutionality of an election that rescinded their tribal membership.

The order applies only to appeals made by the descendants, commonly known as freedmen, in tribal court, and not to ongoing appeals being made in federal court in Washington, D.C. ...

But Jon Velie, the attorney for the freedmen in the federal case, called the tribal court’s action “a temporary fix” and said the tribe was reacting to recent filings by the freedmen in the federal case. In that case on Monday, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. denied a motion by the tribe to dismiss the case or move jurisdiction of it to an Oklahoma federal court.

Young said the order by Cherokee District Court Judge John Cripps means the freedmen will be able to vote in the tribe’s June 23 election, in which current Chief Chad Smith is running for another term. The Tahlequah-based Cherokee Nation is the largest American Indian tribe in the United States, with about 250,000 members. -- Tribe to restore freedmen

April 26, 2007

Cherokee Nation: BIA may disapprove expulsion of Freedmen

The Muskogee Phoenix reports: A recent vote by the Cherokee Nation to revoke the membership of descendants of freed slaves might not have been legal, according to the leader of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Tahlequah-based tribe disagrees with that assessment, however, and a tribal spokesman predicted that Congress will reject an effort by one of its members to stop the tribe from receiving federal funds, the Tulsa World reported from its Washington bureau.

The two sides are debating the tribe’s right to enforce a 2003 tribal constitutional amendment and its March 3 vote to remove the descendants of the tribe’s freed slaves, known as freedmen, from tribal rolls.

Carl Artman, who heads the BIA, told U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., in a letter that the U.S. Interior Secretary must approve the 2003 amendment before it can take legal effect. The letter also said the BIA has taken no action on the March vote. --, Muskogee, OK - Cherokees, Feds at odds over vote

April 25, 2007

Colorado: House committee removes vote-on-parole provision from bill

The Denver reports: A House committee on Tuesday struck a provision that would have allowed felons on parole to vote after opponents said it was unconstitutional.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union, would have given felons on parole the right to vote.

The House Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs voted to strike the amendment to a measure (Senate Bill 83), which Attorney General John Suthers had previously described as unconstitutional. -- Lawmakers Strike Plan To Allow Felons On Parole To Vote - News Story - KMGH Denver

April 20, 2007

Cherokee Nation: Rep. Watson to push fund cut to tribe over Freedman expulsion

AP reports: A black congresswoman is seeking to cut off funding for the Cherokee Nation after the tribe's recent vote to revoke citizenship of slave descendants.

Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., said the Bush administration has dragged its feet after the March 3 tribal referendum, which removed an estimated 2,800 black slave descendants from tribal rolls.

The tribe insists that the vote last month had nothing to do with race. But Watson and about two dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to the Interior Department last month expressing outrage over the vote and asking how the government could intervene.

The Interior Department responded in a letter to the caucus last week saying that it was concerned about the vote and was still reviewing its legality.

In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Watson said the agency doesn't seem willing to address the issue and is turning a blind eye to discrimination. She said she is drafting legislation, which she plans to introduce next week, to cut off the Cherokee Nation's federal funding. -- | 04/19/2007 | SoCal lawmaker eyes cutting Cherokee funding over ex-slave vote

April 17, 2007

Cherokee Nation: council to hire DC firm to defend against Freedmen's case

The Muskogeee Phoenix reports: Cherokee Nation councilors voted Monday to give the administration an additional $520,000 to fight the freedmen case in federal court.

A preliminary non-binding vote came in a meeting of the Executive and Finance Committee with all but three of the 17 councilors present. A full council vote will be taken in the regular council meeting in May as councilors found out the legal fund still has $360,000. The extra money will not be needed this month.

Several councilors were against funding the nation’s fight against the freedmen, saying they were using tribal funds to kick out tribal citizens.

Council attorney Todd Hembree explained the suit was about more than the freedmen — it was about tribal sovereignty because of rulings by the federal judge in the case. -- Cherokees OK money to fight case

Is there a suit already pending? I have not been able to find it mentioned in the press or in the Pacer system in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

April 7, 2007

Florida: "What was Charlie Crist thinking?"

Farhad Manjoo asks and answers the question at During his campaign for the Florida governorship last fall, Charlie Crist frequently expressed deep moral opposition to the state's practice of permanently prohibiting convicted felons from exercising their right to vote. But Crist is a Republican, and his promise to fix Florida's notorious felon-voting ban sometimes sounded like nothing more than campaign puffery. Felon disenfranchisement has long given Republicans a considerable boost at the polls in Florida; if the state's ex-cons had been allowed to vote in 2000, George W. Bush would now be the commissioner of baseball. Was Charlie Crist really going to kill this political golden goose?

On Thursday, he did just that. Crist, who became governor after handily defeating Democrat Jim Davis in November, ushered in a proposal that will quickly restore the voting rights of most of Florida's felons as soon as they are released from prison. The plan looks sure to alter the political landscape in the nation's most populous -- and electoral-vote-rich -- swing state. -- What was Charlie Crist thinking? |

April 5, 2007

Florida: Clemency Board will automatically restore most ex-felons' voting rights

A press release from the Governor of Florida: Governor Charlie Crist today during a special meeting of the Florida Board of Executive Clemency introduced a change to the Rules of Executive Clemency that will provide for the restoration of the civil rights for certain ex-offenders. The rule was approved by a 3-1 majority of the clemency board, which consists of the Governor and the Florida Cabinet. Attorney General Bill McCollum voted against the measure.

“If we believe people have paid their debt to society, then that debt should be considered paid in full, and their civil rights should in fact be restored,” said Governor Crist. “By granting ex-offenders the opportunity to participate in the democratic process, we restore their ability to be gainfully employed, as well as their dignity.”

Under the rule, the civil rights of ex-offenders who have committed less severe crimes, and meet the following requirements, would qualify for approval without a hearing. -- Florida Governor Charlie Crist | Governor Crist Announces Clemency Board’s Vote to Restore Civil Rights

Mississippi: a comment on the Democratic Party suit

Steve Rankin emails (since my Comments function is messed up): “[T]he lawsuit seeks to restrict primary voting only to people who plan to support the party’s nominee in a general election.”

This makes it sound like the court can issue an order saying who can and who cannot vote in party primaries-- which it cannot.

Mississippi law forces each party to allow any voter to take part in its primaries. The Democrats are asking the court to declare this law unconstitutional. If the law is ultimately struck down, each party will then be free to determine who votes in its primaries.

“The courts have ruled that people cannot vote in a Democratic primary and then turn around and vote in [the] Republican runoff or vice versa.”

The courts have ruled no such thing. This is up to the legislature. Take Alabama, for example. Since state law does not forbid it, Alabama Republicans invite people who vote in the Democratic (first) primary to cross over and vote in the Republican runoff (or second) primary.

This Associated Press article had Jack Elliott Jr.'s byline on it.

The burning question: Why don’t AP writers give their addresses, so their readers can contact them?

Mississippi: Democratic Party seeks trial on closed primary

AP reports: Attorneys for plaintiffs wanting to keep non-Democrats from voting in Democratic Party primaries have asked a federal judge to let a trial go on, as scheduled.

There is disagreement within the Democratic Party about the lawsuit, which seeks to restrict primary voting only to people who plan to support the party’s nominee in a general election.

U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper has set the case for trial July 30 in Greenville.

The attorney general’s office, on behalf of the three-member State Board of Election Commissioners, asked Pepper in January to dismiss the lawsuit. On March 12, the Democratic Party asked Pepper to deny the state’s request.

Pepper has given the attorney general until April 6 to file a final brief supporting its motion to throw out the lawsuit. -- The Picayune Item - Miss. Democrats ask federal judge to allow lawsuit to go to trial

April 4, 2007

Mississippi: Democrats seek trial of closed primary case

AP reports: Attorneys for plaintiffs wanting to keep non-Democrats from voting in Democratic Party primaries have asked a federal judge to let a trial go on, as scheduled.

There is disagreement within the Democratic Party about the lawsuit, which seeks to restrict primary voting only to people who plan to support the party’s nominee in a general election.

U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper has set the case for trial July 30 in Greenville.

The attorney general’s office, on behalf of the three-member State Board of Election Commissioners, asked Pepper in January to dismiss the lawsuit. On March 12, the Democratic Party asked Pepper to deny the state’s request.

Pepper has given the attorney general until April 6 to file a final brief supporting its motion to throw out the lawsuit. -- The Picayune Item - Miss. Democrats ask federal judge to allow lawsuit to go to trial

April 3, 2007

Florida: governor hopes to persuade others on clemency board to restore all felons' voting rights

The New York Times reports: Hinting that a remarkable turnaround in state policy was near, Gov. Charlie Crist said Monday that he hoped to persuade members of the Florida cabinet this week to end the practice of stripping convicted felons of their right to vote. ...

Felons in Florida who have served their prison and probation time can apply to have their voting rights reinstated, but the process can be time consuming and complex. Only a few hundred have their rights restored each year in Florida, where the American Civil Liberties Union says 950,000 remain disenfranchised.

Mr. Crist, a Republican, said that to win the support of some cabinet members, he might require former felons to pay whatever restitution they owe to victims before regaining their rights. Some civil rights groups, including the A.C.L.U., oppose such a compromise, but Mr. Crist said he had little choice. ...

Only a constitutional amendment could formally end the ban, but under state law, the governor and cabinet — who also make up the state clemency board — could grant blanket clemency to everyone who completes their sentence. Mr. Crist needs two of the three cabinet members to sign off on the plan. -- Florida Governor Is Hoping to Restore Felon Voting Rights - New York Times

March 27, 2007

Connecticut: some 17-year olds will be allowed to vote in primaries

The Yale Daily News reports: Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 before Election Day may soon be allowed to vote in state primaries, pending the ratification of an amendment to Connecticut’s constitution.

Backed by Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and State Rep. James Spallone, the bill, if passed, would make Connecticut the 10th state to enact such a constitutional revision. Bysiewicz said the bill — which was unanimously approved by the Government Administrations and Elections committee — is designed to encourage youth participation in the political process and to increase the amount of attention paid to youth issues.

Spallone said the proposal addresses the need to bolster voting among young people — the age group that consistently has the lowest turn-out — in order to encourage them to assume a more active role in politics. ...

Currently, 17-year-olds are not able to vote in primary elections even if they will be eligible to vote before the associated general election. The amendment would not lower the overall voting age to 17. -- Yale Daily News - 17-year-olds could vote in primaries

March 23, 2007

Scotland: prison inmate loses in quest for release to vote

BBC News reports: A judge has refused to free a prisoner who wanted to register to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections.

However Donald Birrell - who complained that his human rights had been breached - may still be able to win damages.

Birrell was let out on licence in May last year but is now back in jail after the licence was revoked last month. ...

Under current laws - the 1983 Representation of the People Act - a ban on voting is imposed on all prisoners being held under a sentence.

Remand prisoners and those freed on licence are allowed to cast their vote. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Judge denies inmate's voting bid

March 22, 2007

District of Columbia: Mayor calls on citizens to march for voting rights

The Washington Post reports: Mayor Adrian M. Fenty declared in his first State of the District address yesterday that he is moving fast to make Washington a better place to live, and urged residents to join him for a people's march on Capitol Hill to push for D.C. voting rights.

"The United States government has brought democracy to Baghdad before bringing it home to the District," Fenty told hundreds of senior citizens at Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center in Ward 8. "We are the only capital of a democracy in the world that has no vote in the national legislature." ...

Fenty's call came a day after advisers to President Bush said they would recommend that he veto a bill that would give the city a full vote in the House of Representatives. The D.C. vote bill, which would add two seats to the 435-member House, one for the heavily Democratic District and the other to Republican-leaning Utah, is expected to reach the House floor today.

After his address, Fenty said he has left messages for White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten to talk with him about the bill. -- Fenty Says He and City Are on the Move -

March 12, 2007

Kenya: "Kenyans in Diaspora Want Right to Vote"

The Nation (Nairobi) reports: Kenyans living abroad want Parliament to enact a law to allow dual citizenship so they can register to vote.

Through a lobby group, the Kenya Movement for Democracy and Justice (KMDJ), they say they want the Government and the Opposition to pass such a law because it was among the non-contentious issues contained in the rejected draft constitution.

There was fear the matter might not be given its due recognition now that it has been politicised by leaders every time they met Kenyans outside, KMDJ United Kingdom chapter chairman Ng'ethe wa Mbiyu said

They want Parliament to take up the matter now that the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) had made it clear they had no powers to amend the law to allow dual citizenship as well as voting outside Kenya. -- Kenya: Kenyans in Diaspora Want Right to Vote (Page 1 of 1)

March 4, 2007

Cherokee Nation: referendum kicks out the Freedmen

The Tulsa World reports: Cherokee Nation voters overwhelmingly chose to remove freedmen from their tribal rolls in a special election Saturday.

Complete results late Saturday show 77 percent of the voters supported the proposed amendment to the Cherokee Constitution. About 8,700 votes were cast in the tribe's 14-county district.

The question put to voters proposed a constitutional amendment to require that only descendants of "by blood" tribal members on the 1906 Dawes Rolls would remain in the tribe, excluding about 2,770 freedmen descendants, who were affirmed by the tribe's high court as tribal citizens in March 2006. ..

The amendment also removes non-Indian descendants of "intermarried whites," according to the ballot wording.

Members of the Shawnee and Delaware by blood rolls, who also are Cherokee Nation citizens, will remain on the rolls.

The amendment excludes from Cherokee tribal rolls the descendants of freed Cherokee slaves categorized as freedmen.

Freedmen often intermarried with the tribe and lived within the
Cherokee Nation boundaries. -- News

March 3, 2007

Oklahoma: Cherokees voting on expelling the Freedmen

The Washington Post reports: The 250,000-member Cherokee Nation will vote in a special election today whether to override a 141-year-old treaty and change the tribal constitution to bar "freedmen," the descendants of former tribal slaves, from being members of the sovereign nation.

"It's a basic, inherent right to determine our own citizenry. We paid very dearly for those rights," Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith said in an interview last month in Oklahoma City.

But the Cherokee freedmen see the vote as less about self-determination than about discrimination and historical blinders. They see in the referendum hints of racism and a desire by some Cherokees to deny the tribe's slave-owning past. ...

People on both sides of the issue say the fight is also about tribal politics -- the freedmen at times have been at odds with the tribal leadership -- and about money.

Advocates of expelling the freedmen call it a matter of safeguarding tribal resources, which include a $350 million annual budget from federal and tribal revenue, and Cherokees' share of a gambling industry that, for U.S. tribes overall, takes in $22 billion a year. The grass-roots campaign for expulsion has given heavy play to warnings that keeping freedmen in the Cherokee Nation could encourage thousands more to sign up for a slice of the tribal pie. -- Cherokee Nation To Vote on Expelling Slaves' Descendants -

February 25, 2007

Massachusetts: town to allow noncitizens to vote

The Boston Globe reports: By a 20-4 vote, Newton aldermen approved allowing residents who are not US citizens the right to vote in local elections.

Ted Hess-Mahan , alderman at large from Ward 3 , sponsored the measure, saying it is only fair that residents who pay taxes, send their kids to school, and own property in Newton should also be able to vote on measures that affect them. The overwhelming vote contrasts with 2005, when Hess-Mahan couldn't drum up support for a similar proposal. -- Newton aldermen OK vote for noncitizens - The Boston Globe

February 22, 2007

District of Columbia: vote in Congress may be coming

The Washington Post reports: It can't be easy being in Congress without a vote, but the District's delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has stuck it out for 16 long years, never truly a part of the club but always relentlessly knocking on the door seeking admittance.

Now, Norton is sure, success is in her sights. With Democratic leaders pledging to get it done and ample Republican support, the bill giving both the District of Columbia and Utah an additional voting seat is cruising along. ...

The District's quest for voting rights and statehood has taken many roads for decades. Twenty years ago, legal experts believed only a constitutional amendment could give the city voting rights. But ultimately, only 16 of the 38 states needed voted to ratify the amendment. Most contemporary legal thinking, including an endorsement by the American Bar Association last year, declares the bill constitutionally sound.

Norton's bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), must clear two committees before it is brought for a floor vote. Norton is hoping that will happen in March. Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Pelosi is committed to finalizing the bill's language, moving it through committees and having a floor vote as soon as possible. -- Lois Romano - For Norton and the City, the Wait May Be Over -

February 21, 2007

District of Columbia: "The Conservative Case for D.C. Voting Rights"

Marc Fisher writes in the Washington Post: Just as D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty cheered voting rights advocates with a new effort to lobby Congress for the right that all other Americans take for granted, and just as congressional Democrats were gearing up to show that they intend to be more aggressive on D.C. voting rights than the Republican leadership had been, along comes the Congressional Research Service with a whole new barrier.

The non-partisan Research Service concluded that giving D.C. residents a full, voting seat in the House of Representatives is probably unconstitutional. Suddenly, the air seemed to escape from the voting rights balloon.

Now, D.C. voting rights advocates are scrambling to reassert Congress's authority to create a House seat for the District. On the theory that the Democrats have more to gain from a D.C. seat than the Republicans, the new lobbying effort is aimed at persuading Republicans that this is not only the right thing to do, but a legally well-founded path as well. And who better to make that case than two solid citizens of the right, conservative legal scholars Kenneth Starr, the former Clinton impeachment case special prosecutor, and Viet Dinh, the Georgetown law professor and former Justice Department official.

Starr notes that the Constitution is silent on the matter of whether D.C. residents may vote. In the Founders' era, there was no expectation that people would live in the capital, which was then little more than an idea surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. But Starr says despite that silence, Congress has the authority to adapt to the fact that a full-fledged city grew up here; the Constitution expressly says that "The Congress shall have power ... to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the District of Columbia. -- The Conservative Case for D.C. Voting Rights - Raw Fisher

February 20, 2007

Maryland: drive for felon voting rights

The Washington Post reports: Advocates seeking to expand the voting rights of convicted felons in Maryland are stepping up their efforts this year, hoping that the election of Gov. Martin O'Malley will help move bills that stalled in past years.

Leaders from the 2nd Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church met with O'Malley (D) yesterday morning to encourage him to support legislation that, in varying degrees, would restore the voting rights of former offenders.

In Maryland, a first-time offender is able to vote after completing a sentence, including any probation or parole. People convicted of two or more felonies must wait three years before they can vote.

A House bill would allow first-time offenders to vote after they are released from prison. A Senate bill would remove the waiting period for second-time offenders. -- Advocates Urge O'Malley to Back Restored Rights -

February 14, 2007

"Felons Can Be in the Military, Just Not in the Ballot Box"

Scott Moss writes on Concurring Opinions about two news stories: That is: if we trust felons (at least some of them) enough to let them carry guns and have access to our military in the middle of a war, I can't see an argument that there's any valid reason to prevent them from voting.

It always has been striking how courts strain to avoid invalidating felon disenfranchisement laws. Though I am not a voting rights expert, to my limited review of the case law, the holdings declaring such laws permissible under the Voting Rights Act seem particularly weak; the Act bans practices that have a disparate impact by race (as disenfranchisement laws do), and some courts seem to have avoided finding a violation by reasoning, "Congress didn't intend for its ban on racial disparate impacts to invalidate felon disenfranchisement laws" (I'm paraphrasing). The best response I can give is what Justice Scalia wrote in holding same-sex sexual harassment actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a statute that clearly was intended as a ban on race (and to a lesser extent sex) discrimination in hiring by a Congress that surely never considered same-sex issues in employment:

[M]ale-on-male sexual harassment in the workplace was assuredly not the principal evil Congress was concerned with when it enacted Title VII. But statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed. (emphasis added)
-- Felons Can Be in the Military, Just Not in the Ballot Box

February 13, 2007

Kentucky: House committee approves constitutional amendments relating to pardons and felon vote-restoration

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports: The power of governors to issue pardons would be limited, and certain felons could have their voting rights restored, under constitutional amendments approved Tuesday by a legislative committee.

The House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee voted 8-3 for a measure to prohibit Kentucky governors from pardoning themselves and pardoning others unless they had been formally charged or convicted of a crime.

House Bill 3, sponsored by Reps. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, and Rob Wilkey, D-Scottsville, would prohibit blanket pardons of people who had not been charged with crimes, and would require those seeking pardons to apply for the reprieves. ...

The committee also approved HB 70, which calls for a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to felons after they complete their sentences. It would not apply to murderers or sex offenders.

Under Kentucky's constitution, felons must appeal to the governor to ask for the reinstatement of their rights to vote, hold office or bear arms. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, would bypass the governor's office when it comes to restoring most felons' voting rights. -- Lexington Herald-Leader | 02/13/2007 | Bills would change constitutional rules for pardons, felon voting rights

Missouri: may the mentally ill vote?

AP reports: Lawyers arguing a challenge to Missouri election law before a federal appeals court panel here disagreed yesterday whether the state denies voting rights to some mentally ill people.

The lawyer for a mentally ill man in Kansas City said the Missouri Constitution and state law deny voting rights to Missourians assigned a guardian because of "mental incapacity."

Anti-discrimination law expert Samuel Bagenstos conceded that some counties have ordered individual assessments of those under guardianship to determine their competence to vote. But, he said, they have no authority and are under no obligation to do so.

Bagenstos wants the court to declare what he calls the voting ban unconstitutional and in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ultimately, he said, it’s up to the General Assembly to reshape the law to allow for mentally ill people under guardianship to be assessed individually for voting competence.

A lawyer for the state, meanwhile, maintains Missouri does provide for individual assessments to determine whether a mentally incapacitated person is nonetheless competent to vote. -- Court considers voting rights for mentally ill

Alabama: A.G. King to propose disfranchising all felons

AP reports: About one out of every 14 voting-age Alabamians can't vote because of felony convictions. Restoring their voting rights has created confusion in county courthouses and is about to create a battle in the Legislature.

Attorney General Troy King said he plans to propose a constitutional amendment that would return to Alabama's old system, requiring all felons to apply to the state parole board to get their voting rights restored after finishing their punishment. His constitutional amendment would apply to future felons, not those already in the system.

"It clarifies the law," King said. "It makes it easier for election officials to do their jobs. And it preserves the integrity of our system."

It also creates more work for the state parole board, which is already struggling under a heavy load of probation and parole cases.

"It would be a nightmare," Sarah Still, manager of the board's pardons division, said Friday. -- :: Attorney general wants felon voting change

February 2, 2007

Maine: bill proposes to block ou-of-state college students from voting

The Bowdoin Orient reports: A lawmaker has introduced a bill in the Maine House of Representatives that would take away voting rights for college students from out-of-state.

The legislature's Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony on the bill Wednesday and will hold a vote on February 7.

The sponsor of the bill, Representative Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, said that sometimes college students commit voter fraud by voting both at college and at home, according to a report in the Kennebec Journal. Other supporters of the bill say that students living in dormitories in Maine colleges just aren't residents. ...

In an e-mail to the Orient, Don Cookson, communications director at the Department of the Secretary of State, confirmed that in the last five years there have been no cases of voter fraud in the entire state. -- Bill would limit voting rights for non-Mainers

January 19, 2007

District of Columbia: voting legislation re-introduced in U.S. House

The DCist blog reports: Last year ended on a bit of a sour note for District voting rights, but activists aren't letting a little bad news stop them.

After being stymied by Republican leaders in the closing weeks of the 109th Congress, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton re-introduced legislation on January 9 to grant the District one voting seat in the House of Representatives. The legislation, known as the Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act, is currently before the House Judiciary Committee, and voting rights activists hope to have it before the full House in February. In a press briefing last week on the matter, D.C. Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka recognized that the legislation's re-introduction represented a "second chance to finish this marathon," also admitting, "we're in the last few miles...[they're] the most difficult." -- DCist: Voting Rights Bill Re-Introduced; Faces Challenges

January 12, 2007

On this day in history -- Jan 12

AP reports: On this date: ... In 1915, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote.

In 1932, Hattie W. Caraway became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. -- AP Wire | 01/12/2007 | Today in history - Jan. 12

December 26, 2006

Florida: a skunk at the picnic pushes voting rights for felons

The Tampa Tribune reports: An unlikely lawmaker is taking the lead to change Florida law to restore voting rights to convicted felons.

Orlando state Sen. Gary Siplin, a convicted felon himself, has sponsored Senate Bill 466, which automatically restores voting rights a year after the felon's sentence is completed.

Florida is among three states that don't automatically restore voting rights. The issue gained steam during the 2006 governor's race with both Gov.-elect Charlie Crist and Democrat Jim Davis advocating changing it.

An Orlando jury convicted Siplin in August of third-degree grand theft for having his legislative staff members work on his 2004 Senate re-election campaign on state time. He was sentenced to three years of probation and community service and continues to serve in the Legislature while appealing his conviction. -- Lawmaker: Give Felons Voting Rights

December 13, 2006

California: protests at Enterprise Rancheria hearing

The Oroville Mercury-Register reports: Approximately 30 demonstrators picketed on Saturday outside the Southside Community Center on Lower Wyandotte Road as Enterprise Rancheria conducted a Disenrollment Appeals Hearing inside. The hearing was conducted for appellants Carolyn Porteous and Darlene Taylor the final two of the 72 total tribal members disenrolled from Enterprise Rancheria.

Demonstrators came to show support for Porteous and Taylor. Both women were former tribal members of the Enterprise Rancheria and were disenrolled in May of 2004, after the spoke against the disenrollment of 70 tribal members, according to former Enterprise Rancheria Vice Chairman Robert Edwards.

"Carolyn and Darlene were disenrolled when they spoke out on behalf of the 70 members disenrolled from Enterprise Rancheria the previous November of 2003," Edwards said. "This is just another example of the intimidation tactics exercised by Enterprise Rancheria's tribal leaders and how freedom of speech is expressly prohibited or with consequences."

Both Carolyn and Darlene were very vocal in their criticism of tribal government when they denied the suspended 70 members their right to vote in the Recall Election scheduled for September of 2003, Edwards said. During that same time period in 2003, Carolyn Porteous confronted the responsible tribal officials when they changed the tribal constitution in a manner not consistent with tribal law in order to ultimately affect the outcome of the vote at the Disenrollment Hearing held in November of 2003, Edwards said. ...

Enterprise Tribal chairwoman Glenda Nelson has said they disenrolled the tribal members to keep the tribe unified, as the divisiveness was splitting the tribe. -- Oroville Mercury Register - Appellants disenrolled for speaking out

December 11, 2006

Kentucky: 4 bills would restore voting rights to some or all felons

The Bowling Green Daily News reports: Four separate bills have been filed designed to provide convicted felons with a way to reclaim their voting rights.

The bills handle this process in several ways; one suggests that immediately upon completion of their sentence rights could be restored. Another suggests rights be renewed after they've finished parole. Both would require constitutional amendments. A third, filed by Rep. Rob Wilkey, D-Scottsville, allows for the record to be expunged of one or a series of class D felonies. This, if passed, would restore that person's voting rights and their right to own a firearm.

Wilkey said his is probably the most conservative of all the bills. It only applies to people convicted of nonviolent and nonsexual offenses. ...

A person convicted of a felony must wait five years after the adjudication of their offense and go before a judge to have the record expunged, which allows them the right to vote and to carry a gun, he said. -- Bowling Green, KY, Kentucky Daily News

December 5, 2006

Utah, District of Columbia: will the deal pass?

The New York Times reports: The State of Utah and the District of Columbia are perhaps the oddest imaginable political allies in a nation of polarized partisan loyalties, alike in few things other than bankable predictability: Washington Democratic, Utah Republican.

But they share outrage that each does not have more influence in Congress, and Utah took a big step toward a marriage of convenience Monday when legislators here approved a plan that would give the state a fourth Congressional seat before the next census and Washington its first voting representation ever.

The plan for the District and Utah, a state denied a fourth seat after the 2000 census because the government did not count thousands of residents who were away serving as missionaries for the Mormon Church, faces big hurdles.

Still, the gulf of political difference between the two is the very glue that offers both of them some hope Congress will give its required approval: one of the newly created seats would almost certainly be Democratic, the other Republican, with no net change in the balance of power. -- Utah, Using Olive Branch, Tries to Add Seat in House - New York Times

November 30, 2006

Kentucky: proposal for restoration of felons' voting rights

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports: Felons would have their voting rights restored automatically after finishing their sentences under a constitutional amendment that lawmakers and activists proposed yesterday.

Activists backed their proposal with a new poll showing that 56 percent of Kentuckians support such a change.

The state constitution imposes a lifetime voting ban on felons; only the governor can reverse it. Gov. Ernie Fletcher changed the process by requiring applicants to write a statement and provide three references. ...

In fiscal year 2003, before Fletcher took office, voting rights were restored to 1,231 felons, according to the coalition, which said the numbers came from the Department of Corrections and the secretary of state.

In fiscal year 2006, that number fell to 227, the coalition said. -- Voting rights for felons proposed

October 31, 2006

"Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections"

NPR : Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections
NPR's Morning Edition reports: Signs of possible voting trouble are popping up ahead of midterm elections. The reports range from hackers getting into an official registration database to ballots being printed incorrectly. Pam Fessler reports.

Note: Audio for this story will be available at approx. 10:00 a.m. ET.

October 30, 2006

Indiana: suit against "voting license" system filed

Joell Palmer, the plaintiff in Palmer v. Marion County posts his entire complaint on a new blog. It begins: 1. Introduction: This is an action to enjoin a threat to the integrity of the election process. Time is of the essence. Defendants are attempting to engage in voter fraud, by preventing voters without a voting license from voting. The result will be that the winners of the upcoming elections cannot be determined, because an unknown number of eligible voters will be prevented from voting. Without duly elected government officials, the government will lack legitimacy. The open door law claim provides a basis for statutory entitlement to an accelerated docket. A motion for a TRO and preliminary injunction is filed herewith, to prevent irreparable harm. -- palmer v marion county

Thanks to the Arbitrary Aardvark for the tip.

October 29, 2006

New York: "I see dead people" [voting]

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports: A new statewide database of registered voters contains as many as 77,000 dead people on its rolls, and as many as 2,600 of them have cast votes from the grave, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal computer-assisted analysis.

The Journal's analysis of New York's 3-month-old database is the first to determine the potential for errors and fraud in voting. It matched names, dates of birth and ZIP codes in the state's database of 11.7 million voter registration records against the same information in the Social Security Administration's "Death Master File." That database has 77 million records of deaths dating back to 1937. ...

Among the Journal's findings:

- There were dead people on the voter rolls in all of New York's 62 counties and people in as many as 45 counties who had votes recorded after they had died.

- One Bronx address was listed as the home for as many as 191 registered voters who had died. The address is 5901 Palisade Ave., in Riverdale, site of the Hebrew Home for the Aged.

- Democrats who cast votes after they died outnumbered Republicans by more than 4 to 1. The reason: Most of them came from Democrat-dominated New York City, where the higher population produced more matches. -- Dead voters continue to cast ballots in New York

October 26, 2006

Alabama: state supreme court denies stay on felon-voting case

The Alabama Supreme Court has denied a stay (sought by the Secretary of State) in Gooden v. Worley, in which the plaintiffs prevailed in the trial court and obtained an order requiring boards of registrars to follow the state constitution.

The Constitution of Alabama provides that those convicted of felonies "involving moral turpitude" are not allowed to register to vote. The plaintiffs alleged and proved that registrars were routinely denying all persons convicted of any felony the right to register.

The trial court (Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance, Jr.) had granted relief to the plaintiffs, including a requirement that registrars obey the Constitution. For some reason, the State sought a stay of this common-sense requirement.

Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and I represent the plaintiffs in this case.

The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama Supreme Court has cleared the way for people who have been convicted of felonies such as DUI, attempted burglary and liquor law violations to register to vote.

In a 5-4 decision released Thursday, the court denied the state of Alabama's request to stay a portion of Jefferson County Judge Robert Vance's August ruling that allowed all felons to vote. The portion required the Secretary of State and Jefferson County's registrar to stop refusing voter registration to people who have been convicted of crimes that do not involve moral turpitude.

Vance had ruled that all voter registrars in Alabama counties must allow all felons to register to vote until the State Legislature passes a law that defines crimes of moral turpitude. Vance had said state law does not define such crimes, and the state constitution holds that those guilty of crimes of moral turpitude forfeit the right to vote. -- Court clears some felons to vote

Alabama: 7% of adults are disfranchised, according to new report

AP reports: During 40 long, hard years of living what Zeddie Mauldin calls "the street life," voting ranked low on a to-do list that was topped with getting his next fix from a myriad of drugs, preferably heroin.

He racked up four stints in prison and several judgments during those 40 years, but, he says, it was the latest conviction -- for stealing a car -- that took him off drugs and took him to God. Unfortunately, it also took away his right to vote.

"I've got a nice car, nice apartment, good job, I go to Atlanta to visit my daughter even if it's ... just for lunch," says Mauldin, a 64-year-old catering manager who lives in Birmingham. "These are the types of things that I'm doing in my life now that I get high off of. If I can be able to vote, I feel like I have really, totally got my life back together."

According to an analysis released Thursday by two felon rights advocacy groups, Mauldin is just one of an estimated 250,046 Alabamians who have been barred from voting because of felony convictions.

That's one of every 14 Alabama voting-age adults, which is three times the national average and the third highest rate of disenfranchisement in the country, according to the report by The Alabama Alliance to Restore the Vote and the Washington, D.C.-based The Sentencing Project. -- :: Analysis: Alabama among top states in felon disenfranchisement

October 19, 2006

"Barred from voting"

Katharine Mieszkowski writes on When Koren Carbuccia went to prison for the second time, her son, Vaskan, was just 3 months old. Being incarcerated during the earliest years of his life changed hers. She wanted nothing more than to be home with him. ...

Carbuccia won an early release in February 2005. Today, at 27, she is a student at Community College of Rhode Island, studying substance abuse counseling, and working toward a master's degree. While going to school and caring for her son, she also works 20 hours a week doing data entry at the Family Life Center in Providence, which provides assistance for ex-offenders and their families. Recently, she took Vaskan, now almost 5, to his first day of preschool. "I want to do the right thing," says Carbuccia, who describes herself as a PTA mom. "I want to be responsible and raise my child. "

But there's one way Carbuccia isn't like other moms, and as the law in Rhode Island now stands, won't be until 2017. Only then, when she's completed both parole and probation, will she be allowed to vote. Until she's 38 years old, she'll be a second-class citizen, working, parenting, studying, paying taxes, but unable to cast a ballot. In a state of just 1 million, she's one of more than 15,000 disenfranchised voters because of prior felonies.

Across the U.S., nearly 4 million people with felony convictions, who are out of prison, have no say in their own government, and won't be going to the polls on Nov. 7. Their lost votes could make a decisive difference in close Senate and House races this fall, especially in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, where, unlike most states, felons, even after serving their time, never regain the right to vote. Among the races that could be affected are Virginia Sen. George Allen's attempt to retain his Senate seat, despite his recently exposed history of using racial slurs, and the House race for Kentucky District 3, where polls now show Republican Anne Northup essentially tied in her attempts to keep her seat from challenger Democrat John Yarmuth.

Sociologists who have long studied the disenfranchisement of felons say that the lost votes amount to a built-in advantage for Republicans, seen most famously in the 2000 presidential race in Florida, in which Al Gore would have likely beat George W. Bush had ex-felons been allowed to vote. -- Barred from voting | Salon News

October 18, 2006

Florida: both major-party candidate for governor agree on restoring felon voting rights

The Miami Herald reports: Regardless of who becomes governor of Florida in three weeks, one thing now appears certain: The 136-year-old rule that keeps most felons from being able to vote after they have completed their sentences will be scrapped.

Republican Charlie Crist has switched his position and joined Democratic opponent Jim Davis in favoring restoring the civil rights of all felons automatically after they have served their time. Until recently, Crist opposed automatic restoration.

''It all comes down to one fundamental question: Do you believe that an individual has paid his debt to society?'' Crist said Tuesday in an interview with The Miami Herald editorial board. ``If they've really paid their debt to society, then why not restore their right to vote?'' -- | 10/18/2006 | Voting ban for felons could end with next governor

October 17, 2006

Rhode Island: Fauntroy urges vote for amendment restoring felon voting rights

The Providence Journal reports: A civil rights activist who worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. exhorted community leaders yesterday to urge high voter turnout next month for Ballot Question 2, which would restore voting rights to convicted felons.

“If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be right here standing with me, saying to you what I am saying, and that is that there’s nothing more important than to involve all of our people in the arena of public policy. They call it politics,” the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy said, according to an audio recording of his speech provided by one of the participants in a rally yesterday in support of restoring voting rights.

Besides having worked with King, Fauntroy represented the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives and was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The Rhode Island Constitution bars felons from voting until they have completed their entire sentence, including probation. Question 2 would amend the Constitution to allow felons to vote when they are released from prison, even if their entire sentence has not expired. -- Rhode Island news | | The Providence Journal | Local News

Mississippi: the slow path to voting rights for felons

AP reports: Some say there are two problems with Mississippi's system that deals with voting rights of convicted felons.

First is a provision in the Mississippi Constitution that sets forth the crimes that result in a loss of voting rights. The second is the process of restoring those rights to ex-convicts.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging Mississippi's denial of voting rights to ex-convicts. The ACLU specifically is challenging a 2004 opinion from Attorney General Jim Hood that adds 11 more crimes to the 10 that appear in the constitution as grounds for denying restoration of voting rights.

The ACLU argues that any changes should have been through legislative action. Hood contends that his opinion was based on a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Among the additional crimes in Hood's opinion are felony bad check, timber larceny and carjacking. The constitution lists crimes that include murder, rape and embezzlement. -- Restoring suffrage to felons won't be approved soon - The Clarion-Ledger

October 13, 2006

Felon voting rights: "a crazy-quilt"

Sasha Abramsky writes on Democracy Dispatches: Late this summer Judge Robert Vance, Jr., of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, issued a decree that the blanket disenfranchisement of felons in Alabama violated the state's constitution. A few weeks later, at the urging of the state's attorney general, Vance agreed to put most of his order on hold until after the November elections. The delay would, he said, give the state's Supreme Court a chance to weigh in on the question.

Vance's initial ruling was a brave one and ought to have been applauded by all who care about voting rights in America. Yet, even before political pressure led to his backtracking, Vance's decision was founded almost on a technicality, rather than on a principled objection to disenfranchisement per se . Let me explain.

Because election law is generally left up to individual states, America has a crazy-quilt system of laws when it comes to felons and voting rights. In Maine and Vermont, felons can vote even while they're in prison. In Utah they cannot vote while in prison but their political rights are restored the moment they exit the prison gates at the end of their sentences. Elsewhere parolees cannot vote. Some states impose additional waiting periods at the backend of a person's sentence before they can vote, and still other states have a system of "permanent disenfranchisement" in place, whereby one-time felons have to go through a variety of difficult bureaucratic processes in order to apply to have their voting rights restored. If they don't make this effort, they remain voteless. Alabama, like many of its southern neighbors, is in the latter category.

Yet, to make matters still more confusing, while a state like Florida simply disenfranchises all ex-felons until such time as they can convince the governor and his staff that they are worthy of re-enfranchisement, Alabama's disenfranchisement laws rest on Jim Crow-era language that was originally intended to allow elections' officials to remove the vote from people convicted of supposedly "black crimes." In Alabama, a felony conviction only triggers disenfranchisement if the crime involves a vaguely defined concept called "moral turpitude." A catch-all term largely defined by county officials in any way they chose, "moral turpitude" was, like the poll tax and the literacy test, a tool used by white authorities during the darkest days of racial segregation to preserve their political dominance over African Americans in the state. Hence people convicted of stealing food--a crime most likely to be committed by impoverished, landless, ex-slaves--lost their vote, while those convicted of a host of violent crimes that were thought to be more frequently committed by whites at the end of the 19th century didn't. -- Democracy Dispatches

Disclosure: the Alabama case is Gooden v. Worley in which Ryan Haygood (of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and I are representing the plaintiffs.

October 12, 2006

States relaxing restrictions on felon voting

The New York Times reports: Legislatures in 16 states have loosened voting restrictions on felons over the last decade, according to a new report, a trend hailed by some rights advocates as a step toward democratic principles and fairness, especially for black Americans.

Because of their high incarceration rate, blacks are most affected by the voting bans that vary widely among the states, with many barring current inmates and parolees from voting until they have fulfilled their sentences, and some barring felons for life.

In recent years, Iowa, Nebraska and New Mexico have repealed their lifetime bans on voting by people who have been convicted of felonies, and several other states made it easier for freed prisoners or those on probation to vote, according to the report, issued yesterday by the Sentencing Project, a liberal advocacy group in Washington.

The recent changes have restored voting rights to more than 600,000 individuals, the report said. But because the country’s prison population has continued to rise, a record number of Americans, 5.3 million, are still denied the vote because of criminal records, it concluded. -- States Are Growing More Lenient in Allowing Felons to Vote - New York Times

Note: The Sentencing Project report is here.

September 15, 2006

Georgia: federal judge blocks voter I.D. for next week's local elections

AP reports: For the third time in nearly a year, the same federal judge has blocked Georgia from requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot - this time during 30-plus local special elections next week. ...

While Murphy on Thursday again blocked enforcement of the new voter ID law for another round of elections, he didn't prevent the state from moving forward with educating the public about the law in time for the Nov. 7 elections.

In fact, Murphy commended the state for its efforts to inform voters that under the new law they must present at the polls a valid form of government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license or U.S. passport. ...

Murphy said he will hear arguments later on whether or not the law should be in effect in November. -- Macon Telegraph | 09/15/2006 | Judge blocks Georgia voter ID law

September 13, 2006

Alabama: AG asks for complete stay of felon-voting order

AP reports: The state attorney general has asked the Alabama Supreme Court to delay all parts of a judge's order allowing felons to vote in Alabama.

Attorney General Troy King's motion argues that the entire ruling last month by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. should be shelved until the high court can rule on an appeal.

Vance had ruled last month that felons must be allowed to vote until the Alabama Legislature clarifies crimes of "moral turpitude."

At a Sept. 1 hearing, Vance agreed to stay much of his order until after the Nov. 7 general election and until the Supreme Court could rule on the appeal, but he allowed felons convicted of certain offenses to vote. -- AG asks court to delay judge's felon voting ruling

Comment: Ryan Haygood and I represent the plaintiffs in this case.

September 11, 2006

Alabama: New York Times editorial on felon voting rights

The New York Times editorlizes today on the Alabama felon voting rights case: It has been decades since federal laws overturned the literacy tests and poll taxes that were the most blatant
forms of discrimination barring black people from voting in Southern states. But even today, felony
disenfranchisement is an enormous obstacle to voting for black people in the Deep South. These laws are the
worst in the free world. The process for restoring voting rights for people who have been convicted of crimes
can be so byzantine that officials don’t know who is eligible. The confusion bars some eligible voters from
the polls for life. -- Denying the Vote

Comment: I am one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in this case. I have uploaded a PDF of the editorial here.

September 6, 2006

New Hampshire: problems for 8 candidates found by using statewide voter database

The Concord Monitor reports: State officials have discovered that eight House candidates on next week's primary ballots are not actually registered members of their declared political party. The attorney general's office has asked the state Ballot Law Commission to decide whether the candidates should be disqualified from running.

Of the eight, one is an incumbent lawmaker: Rep. Jim Danforth of Andover, who has served one term as a Republican and is seeking re-election to the Legislature as a member of that party. But Danforth is registered to vote as a Democrat, the secretary of state and attorney general discovered recently. They found similar problems with seven other candidates. State law requires candidates for office to run in the primary of their registered political party. ...

State law says that the "name of any person shall not be printed upon the ballot of any party for a primary unless he is a registered member of that party." In addition to Danforth, seven other candidates violate that law:

q Four candidates filed to run as Democrats despite being registered as undeclared voters: Maureen "Mo" Baxley of Andover, Fran Defeo of Conway, Matthew Preston of Seabrook and Greta Cocco of Somersworth.

q Two candidates filed to run as Republicans despite being registered as undeclared: Matthew Covey of Carroll and Ron Peddle of Danville.

q One candidate, Roberto Ordonez of Merrimack, filed to run for the House despite the fact that he was not registered to vote anywhere in the state; when he filed his candidacy, Ordonez said he was a registered Democrat. -- Concord Monitor Online Article - 8 candidates may be tossed from ballot - Your News Source - 03301

September 3, 2006

Alabama: op-ed in favor of reforming felon voting rights

Steven Taylor writes in the Birmingham News: It is often amazing to note how a specific word or phrase within the law can create a great deal of confusion. Sometimes, such words are used to purposefully create confusion; other times, such words are carelessly chosen. Today's exhibit: "moral turpitude."

Under Alabama law, persons who commit crimes of "moral turpitude" will have their rights to vote revoked. Further, a 2003 law was passed to allow felons who had committed such a crime to petition for restoration of voting rights. Felons who commit felonies that aren't crimes of moral turpitude can vote. ...

The base problem: There is no settled legal definition in Alabama as to what the term "crime of moral turpitude" means. ...

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "turpitude" as relating to "inherent baseness; depravity" or refers to "a base act." Given that all felonies are serious crimes, this all begs the question as to what felonies wouldn't be acts of moral turpitude. Even the state Supreme Court's definition (an "act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen or to society in general") does little to provide clear direction. -- Banning felon votes not worth time, money

September 2, 2006

Alabama: voting after a felony conviction

I have posted on a set of instructions for registering to vote in Alabama if a person has been convicted of a felony.

September 1, 2006

Alabama: GOP doesn't like the felon voting decision or Judge Vance or felons or ...

The Alabama Republican Party offers this opinion: The Alabama Republican Party on Thursday said a liberal ruling by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance, Jr., who was appointed to office by Don Siegelman, may be an attempt to help Democrats at the ballot box in the fall.

Vance’s controversial ruling ordered registrars to begin allowing felons across the state to register to vote, including those currently incarcerated in Alabama prisons. The state’s chief elections official told the Birmingham News that the ruling might require voting stations to be placed in Alabama prisons.

The head of the Alabama Republican Party responded strongly to the ruling.

“The Alabama Republican Party has consistently opposed the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, and we certainly don’t believe incarcerated felons should help decide the future of our state,” GOP chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said. “With a tap of his gavel, Don Siegelman’s hand-picked judge may have given convicted drug dealers, and other incarcerated felons the same right to vote that honest and upstanding citizens enjoy.” -- Alabama Republican Party :: News Item

Alabama: The Alablawg comments on the felon voting decision

Wheeler writes on The Alablawg: I finally had a chance to read Judge Vance’s decision, in which he affirmed Alabama’s power to disenfranchise people convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, but said everyone gets to vote until the legislature defines moral turpitude. It confirmed my initial impression of the decision, as well as my criticisms of Twinkle and her kind.

Overall, it’s a fascinating decision.

The first thing to get straight is what it did not do – say Alabama has to let all felons vote. In Alabama, no one convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude” can vote. -- Alabama, Felons, Moral Turpitude, And Voting, Part 2 « The Alablawg

August 31, 2006

Massachusetts: New Bedford supports voting rights of "homeless" man

The Standard-Times reports: E. Michael Janson has voted and run for public office from his address at 895 Rockdale Ave. for many years, but he has been frozen out of the city's political life since the Elections Commission told him last November his residence does not qualify him as a registered voter.

"I don't consider myself a homeless person, but even if you do, homeless persons cannot be denied the right to vote simply because they do not have a traditional residence," said Mr. Janson, who has run for mayor six times.

City Solicitor Irene Schall agrees with Mr. Janson. After consulting with the office of the Massachusetts Secretary of State, Ms. Schall said her office has told the Elections Commission that Mr. Janson's voter registration should be reinstated because Massachusetts state law ensures even homeless people the right to vote. ...

The Elections Commission removed Mr. Janson from the voter rolls after a Nov. 22, 2005, hearing in which city resident Evangelos "Gilly" Safioleas filed a complaint that alleged Mr. Janson did not have a legal voting address. The commission nullified Mr. Janson's voter registration because his residence is a garage that does not have heat or running water, and because Mr. Safioleas testified that Mr. Janson actually lived in a rooming house on Elm Street. -- - City backs candidate's voting right - August 31, 2006

Alabama: Birmingham News editorial on felon voting rights

The Birmingham News editorializes: What exactly is a crime of "moral turpitude?" That is the $64,000 question when it comes to voting rights for felons.

Last week, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. ruled the state must allow all felons to register to vote until the Legislature defines what constitutes crimes of moral turpitude. People convicted of some felonies, including drunken driving and drug possession, he ordered, should be allowed to register to vote immediately, while those convicted of more serious felonies will have to wait for the U.S. Justice Department to review the voting change. ...

State law bans felons found guilty of crimes of moral turpitude from voting unless they apply for and have their voting rights restored by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. But the law doesn't say exactly what those crimes of moral turpitude are. In the past, attorneys general have given examples of some crimes that fall into the category, but not a complete list. -- Defining `moral turpitude'

Disclosure: Ryan Haygood and I represent the plaintiffs in this suit.

August 26, 2006

Alabama: AG appeals the felon voting rights case

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama's attorney general says a Jefferson County judge's ruling that would allow all felons to vote is "legally unsound." Friday, he notified the Alabama Supreme Court he plans to appeal.

Separately, Attorney General Troy King asked Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. to withhold his order that the ruling be immediately submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for a civil rights review. Vance set a Sept. 1 hearing on the request.

Vance ruled Tuesday that all felons must be allowed to register to vote until the state Legislature passes a law that defines crimes of moral turpitude. But Vance's order is not in force until it is approved by the Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Vance said felons who have been convicted of crimes already determined to not involve moral turpitude must be allowed to vote immediately. Attorney general opinions and other legal precedents have determined a handful of crimes such as drunken driving do not involve moral turpitude. -- AG challenges felons' voting rights

Disclosure: Ryan Haygood and I represent the plaintiffs in this case.

August 23, 2006

Alabama: press coverage of felon voting rights decision

AP reports: A Jefferson County judge ordered Wednesday the state of Alabama to allow ex-felons to vote, saying a state law that denies voting rights to felons convicted of crimes of moral turpitude does not identify which crimes fit that definition.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance Jr. stayed portions of his order until it could be cleared by the U.S. Justice Department. The federal Voting Rights Act requires that changes in voting law in Alabama be cleared through the Justice Department.

Vance ordered voter registrars in Alabama counties to register ex-felons until "the Alabama Legislature passes, and the governor signs into law, legislation specifically identifying which felonies involve moral turpitude."

The judge's ruling came in a lawsuit filed in Jefferson County by Richard Gooden, who lost his right to vote in 2000 when he was convicted of felony driving under the influence. When Gooden tried to have his voting rights restored he was told that the Alabama secretary of state's office had ordered no felons be registered until the Attorney General Troy King issued an opinion on what crimes do not involve moral turpitude. -- Judge rules state can't stop ex-felons from voting | | Times Daily | Florence, AL

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

Connecticut: Lieberman on the ballot with new party

AP reports: U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who relaunched his campaign as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, has enough valid voter signatures to secure a spot on the November ballot, the secretary of the state announced Wednesday.

Lieberman far exceeded the 7,500 signatures necessary to be certified as a third-party candidate, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said.

His name will appear on the general election ballot under his newly created party, Connecticut for Lieberman. By creating the party, Lieberman secured a position higher on the ballot than he would have had as an independent. -- Lieberman Certified to Appear on Ballot

Alabama: state court grants voting rights to all felons

The Circuit Court of Jefferson County today issued a judgment on a case seeking to restore many felons' voting rights. Here are the high points of the decree:

  • Certifies a class of "Every citizen of the United States, currently residing in this State and 18 years of age or older, who has at any time been convicted of a felony in anyjurisdiction and who is not, as of the date of this order, registered to vote in this State."
  • Declares that the policy and practice of disfranchising all felons violates the Alabama Constitution.
  • All registrars in the state are ordered to cease the policy immediately and to follow the requirements of the Alabama Constitution.
  • "Unless and until the Alabama Legislature passes, and the Governor signs into law, legislation specifically identifying which felonies involve moral turpitude, and unless and until any such duly-enacted legislation receives the necessary pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department, the named defendants, all members of the defendant class, and all those who work with r on behalf of any of the defendants or defendant class members, are ENJOINED from refusing to register any individual, otherwise qualified to vote, on the ground that the individual has previously been convicted of a felony."
  • Stays the order until it has been precleared, and orders the State's lawyers to submit the order for preclearance propmptly.
  • Disclosure: Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and I represent the plaintiffs in this case.

    Note: I have amended the entry to add the second bullet point.

    August 19, 2006

    APSA paper: "The Power of the Franchise: Race, Ethnicity and Predictors of Voting Rights Restoration"

    Hale, Kathleen., McNeal, Ramona. and Schmeida, Mary. "The Power of the Franchise: Race, Ethnicity and Predictors of Voting Rights Restoration"

    Abstract: Legislative activity in the states suggests that the issue of felon disenfranchisement is rising on the public agenda both within and outside Southern states. Agenda setting theory suggests that interest groups, state and citizen ideology, political context and public demand influence the ability of issues to reach the public agenda. Cross sectional time series is used to analyze legislation in support of restoring voting rights introduced in the fifty states from 2001 through 2005. Findings demonstrate that citizen ideology, the racial composition of state prison populations and the racial composition of state elected officials and administrators are significant influences when controlling for regional effects. States with more liberal citizen views, larger minority populations in state prisons and which have made greater gains in the overall number of black elected officials and administrators are more likely environments for legislative proposals to restore voting rights to felons. -- Download file

    August 17, 2006

    "Can I vote?"

    From a press release dated 15 August: The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) today launched the first-ever national voter education campaign to provide eligible voters from all 50 states with the information they need to cast their ballots in 2006 – all on one Web site. The campaign’s centerpiece,, is a one-stop shop that provides voters with step-bystep instructions for voting no matter where in the United States they live.

    The Can I Vote? Campaign is designed to help answer the two questions voters most often asked in 2004, according to data collected by the Election Protection hotline: “Am I registered to vote?” and “Where is my polling place?” The Campaign Web site provides links to online voter registration lookup tools and polling place locators on state and local Web sites. It also includes an interactive directory of local election officials.

    Comment: It may be "50 states" but some of those states have only a few counties -- Alabama has only one.

    August 11, 2006

    Texas: another write-in jumps into the TX-22 race

    CQ Politics reports: Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a Houston city councilwoman, said today that she will ask Texas Republican officials to support her as a consensus write-in candidate in the 22nd Congressional District, where former Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s announced withdrawal has left the party’s ballot line empty for November’s House contest.

    Sekula-Gibbs’ application to run — which came a day after an announcement by Sugar Land Mayor David G. Wallace that he would wage a write-in campaign — puts the Republicans in a deep quandary.

    Despite the district’s typically strong Republican leanings, the GOP faces a very difficult challenge to defeat the strong takeover bid by Democratic former Rep. Nick Lampson with a write-in campaign, even if just one strong Republican candidate is running. Bids by more than one strong contender likely would split the write-in vote and render the party’s effort futile. -- - Second GOP Hopeful Asks for Party Support of Write-In Bid in Texas 22nd

    Pennsylvania: Port Authority refuses to run ads informing ex-felons of voting rights

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: If the Port Authority will post ads promoting the Women's Law Project, opposing housing discrimination, honoring Rosa Parks and touting a church's Christmas concert, then why won't it approve one on voting rights?

    The American Civil Liberties Union posed that question in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday in conjunction with the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters.

    The two groups want to run an advertising campaign to inform ex-criminal offenders in Pennsylvania that they have the right to vote as soon as they leave prison -- even if they remain on probation or parole.

    Port Authority refused to use the ads, saying it doesn't display noncommercial advertisements.

    The plaintiffs claim that Port Authority doesn't follow its own policies and has practiced content-based discrimination against them, violating both the First and 14th Amendments. -- ACLU sues Port Authority over advertising restrictions

    August 8, 2006

    Tennessee: town hall meeting discusses changes in felon voting rights

    The Knoxville News Sentinel reports: To Angel Romero, a former drug dealer who would someday like to vote, a recent revision to state law that makes it easier for felons to regain their voting rights after serving their sentence was long overdue.

    Still, the new law might not go far enough, because it will likely end up discriminating against poor people, especially minorities, according to a panel that discussed the issue Monday at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. ...

    Until May, when the law in Tennessee was changed, felons had to go through the cumbersome and often expensive process of going before a judge if they wanted to regain their right to vote.

    The new law, however, creates a uniform process that allows most felons to vote if they have completed their sentence, paid their court-ordered restitution, and aren't behind on child support payments.

    Renee Paradis, associate counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, said Tennessee's child support provision was troubling because it could result in some people being barred from voting because of their financial situation. -- KnoxNews: Local

    July 31, 2006

    Colorado: state supreme court upholds disfranchisement of parolees

    AP reports: The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld a state law that prohibits convicted felons from voting while they are on parole, a ruling that will keep some 6,000 people from casting ballots this year.

    Colorado law denies felons the right to vote while they are serving their sentences, and the justices said in a unanimous opinion that parole must be considered part of a sentence. ...

    Attorneys for Danielson, the Colorado Criminal Justice Coalition and Colorado-CURE argued that under the state Constitution, prisoners' voting rights should be restored when they are released from prison, even if they are still on parole.

    But the Supreme Court agreed with the secretary of state and Denver District Judge Michael Martinez, who said convicted felons have not served their full sentence until all components - including parole - are completed. -- Colo. Court Upholds Ban on Parolee Voting

    July 10, 2006

    Alabama: Wallace wants Dems to vote in GOP runoff

    AP reports: With no Democratic runoff for statewide offices, George Wallace Jr. is telling Democrats they are welcome to cross over to the Republican runoff July 18 to vote for him for lieutenant governor.

    His runoff opponent, Luther Strange, said seeking Democratic crossover voters has backfired on GOP candidates who did it in previous Republican runoffs.

    "Addressing our message to Democrats is not a strong strategy," Strange said.

    In a speech Thursday to the Lincoln Kiwanis Club, Wallace recounted how the Republican Party has an open primary and runoff. People who voted in the Democratic primary on June 6 can cross party lines and vote in the Republican runoff on July 18, he said. -- :: Wallace encourages crossover voting

    July 8, 2006

    Washington State: federal court dismisses felon voting rights case

    A lawyer in the case emails me: Thursday afternoon the Eastern District of Washington (Judge Robert H. Whaley) issued the attached adverse ruling in favor of Defendants in Farrakhan v. Gregoire, our challenge to Washington State's racially discriminatory felon disfranchisement regime. The Court, on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment, granted Defendants' Motion, thereby dismissing the case in its entirety.

    Needless to say, we are extremely disappointed by this decision on its merits, particularly because the Court found that Plaintiffs presented "compelling evidence of racial discrimination and bias in Washington's criminal justice system," and that such discrimination "clearly hinder[s] the ability of racial minorities to participate effectively in the political process."

    Though the Court concluded that it "has no doubt that members of racial minorities have experienced discrimination in Washington's criminal justice system," it held that "[o]ther factors, particularly Washington's history, or lack thereof, of racial bias in its electoral process and in its decision to enact the felon disenfranchisement provisions, counterbalance the contemporary discriminatory effects that result from the day-to-day functioning of Washington's criminal justice system."

    May 31, 2006

    Alabama: voting rights suit for felons dismissed

    The Birmingham News reports: A federal lawsuit filed by three Alabamians who accused Secretary of State Nancy Worley and some county registrars of denying certain felons the right to vote has been dismissed.

    A three-judge panel Friday ended the lawsuit filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of Dothan resident Ekeyesto Doss and Richard Gooden and Andrew Jones, both of Birmingham. The judges found the men lacked the legal standing to bring the case.

    "None of the plaintiffs have a current injury that a favorable decision could remedy," the judges wrote.

    Doss, Gooden and Jones contended Worley violated Alabama's constitution by requiring all felons to apply to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have voting rights restored.

    The suit said the state constitution is clear that people convicted of certain felonies such as DUI and drug possession - unlike rape, robbery or murder - do not lose their voting rights and do not need to apply for an eligibility certificate from the board. -- Voting rights suit focused on felons dismissed due to no legal standing

    May 30, 2006

    Alabama: federal court dismisses Section 5 action for lack of standing

    On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama dismissed a challenge to the practice of the Secretary of State of encouraging registrars to bar applicants convicted of any felony from registering. The State Constitution bars only those convicted of felonies involving moral turpitude. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and I had brought suit under Section of the Voting Rights Act to require the Secretary of State to cease this practice until she obtained preclearance for it. You can download the file here.

    May 5, 2006

    Rhode Island: Senate approves voting by felons on probation or parole

    AP reports: The Senate approved a bill Thursday that could pave the way for convicted felons on probation or parole to gain the right to vote.

    Last year the General Assembly approved sending the issue to the ballot for voters to decide if they want to amend the state constitution to allow felons to vote. Thursday's bill details the process for registering felons to vote and is contingent on voter approval of the ballot question in November.

    The Department of Corrections would provide the felons with voter registration forms and offer help to fill them out.

    Sponsors of bill are mostly Providence's lawmakers who have a significant number of constituents serving probation or parole.

    The legislators said Rhode Island has the nation's second highest rate of people on probation and is the only state in New England that prohibits voting for residents serving time in prison or on probation or parole. -- Felons' right to vote goes to the ballot -

    April 6, 2006

    Gibraltar: Spain vs. UK over Gibaltar voting law

    Breaking reports: A senior legal adviser at the European Union’s court of justice in Luxembourg today sided with Spain in a legal case launched against Britain, agreeing that electoral laws in Gibraltar allowing non-EU citizens the right to vote in European elections violated EU treaty rules.

    In his legal opinion to the EU court, Advocate General Antonio Tizzano said that, while Britain had an obligation to extend voting rights to British citizens in Gibraltar, a 2003 act to extend such rights to citizens of the British Commonwealth who are not British or citizens of any other EU country “infringes” EU law. -- Spain 'partly backed' over Gibraltar voting rights

    March 30, 2006

    Israel: 53% of prisoners voted

    The Jerusalem Post reports: Voting has closed in Israel's prisons, and a total of 53 percent of the 9000 prisoners eligible to vote in the elections for the 17th Knesset exercised their right. -- Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

    March 29, 2006

    Washington State: AG to appeal decision over felons' fines

    AP reports: The state will appeal a King County judge's ruling that restores voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time but owe court-imposed fines, Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed announced today.

    In a joint written statement, McKenna and Reed said each state has the right to "determine the process for restoring voting rights to felons."

    "We believe a rational basis does exist for the Legislature to deny felons the right to vote until they have completed their entire court-ordered sentences, including payment of criminal penalties, victim's restitution, and legal fees, rather than separating out various sentencing aspects," they wrote.

    King County Superior Court Judge Michael Spearman ruled Monday that the state's requirement that ex-felons pay all court-ordered fines and fees before they can vote again violates the equal-protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: State to appeal ruling granting voting rights to felons who owe fines

    March 27, 2006

    Washington State: felons with fines may register

    AP reports: Convicted felons who have served their time but owe court-imposed fines cannot be denied the right to vote, a King County Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

    Washington prohibits felons currently on probation, in prison, or on parole from voting. Ex-felons in the state also must satisfy all court-related costs before getting their rights restored. More than 150,000 ex-felons are unable to vote, about 3.6 percent of the state's population.

    "It is well recognized that there is simply no rational relationship between the ability to pay and the exercise of constitutional rights," Judge Michael Spearman wrote. -- King County court rules convicted felons with outstanding fines can vote

    March 23, 2006

    Census Bureau report

    The Census Bureau has released Voting and Registrationin the Election of November 2004. The report covers turnout and registration rates by

  • gender
  • race and ethnicity
  • income
  • nativity status
  • age
  • marital status
  • educational attainment
  • employment status and income
  • veteran status
  • methods of registration.
  • Alabama: Moore says people don't have "enough sense" to rewrite state constitution

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore answered directly Wednesday when he was asked whether voters are capable of picking delegates for a state constitutional convention.

    "No." ...

    A woman brought up the subject of constitutional reform and wanted to know if Moore thought the people of Alabama "had enough sense" to elect representatives to a constitutional convention.

    The former state Supreme Court chief opposes rewriting the document state constitution, a document that has been criticized for being voluminous and out of date. -- montgomeryadvertiser.comďż˝::ďż˝ Moore says voters not capable

    March 22, 2006

    Virgin Islands: federal judge promises decision by May

    The Virgin Islands Daily News reports: Court procedures are again in motion to make a long-awaited decision on a federal court case demanding that territory residents who are United States citizens be represented with votes in Congress and be allowed to vote for president.

    The first hearing since 2002 in a voting rights case filed by St. Thomas resident Krim Ballentine went forward in District Court on Monday morning. New Jersey District Judge Anne Thompson made no decisions, but she pronounced the case - completely argued and briefed years ago - ripe for judgment.

    Ballentine, a St. Thomas activist and 2004 candidate for V.I. delegate to Congress, filed a lawsuit in District Court in 1999 challenging the Revised Organic Act of 1954. Ballentine's lawsuit claims that he is a disenfranchised voter because he is a U.S. citizen but has no real representation in the federal government.

    Residents of the Virgin Islands - and other U.S. territories and possessions - are not represented in the Electoral College, which selects the nation's president. While all states have two U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives based on population, the Virgin Islands - as well as other U.S. territories and possessions and the District of Columbia - is represented in Congress only by a nonvoting delegate who can propose legislation and serve on committees. -- Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Newspaper, A Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper, Virgin Islands Guide, Virgin Islands Info

    March 20, 2006

    Puerto Rico: Supreme Court refuses to hear PR's presidential vote case

    AP reports: The Supreme Court turned down an appeal Monday that sought to open U.S. presidential elections to voters in Puerto Rico.

    The court's action, taken without comment, is the latest setback in a long-running legal fight over voting rights of residents of the U.S. territory.

    Attorney Gregorio Igartua, who filed the appeal, said that "for 107 years and 22 presidential elections since Puerto Rico became part of the United States, the American citizens of Puerto Rico" have been unfairly treated. He told justices that the residents have "an inferior type of American citizenship." -- - Puerto Ricans dealt blow in U.S. presidential vote - Mar 20, 2006

    March 19, 2006

    Alabama: "felon disenfranchisement creep"

    Ryan Paul Haygood writes in the Birmingham News: Alabama's constitution, which was passed into law by the people, permits those convicted of felony offenses not involving "moral turpitude" to register to vote. Alabama's courts, the state attorney general and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles also have made it clear that people convicted of felony offenses like Gooden's, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drug possession, do not lose their voting rights.

    Unfortunately, Secretary of State Nancy Worley, the state's chief election official, is flouting Alabama's constitution and laws by advising county registrars throughout Alabama to refuse to register these potential voters unless they have a Certificate of Eligibility from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, a document they do not need and indeed cannot receive.

    The secretary of state's behavior is a symptom of "felon disfranchisement creep," a practice that occurs when election officials - whether intentionally or through ignorance of the law - improperly expand existing felon disfranchisement laws to deny the vote to eligible citizens. -- State doesn't need repeat of vote denial

    The article is also available here.

    March 10, 2006

    Maryland: bill would allow non-residents to vote in some vacation towns

    The Ocean City Dispatch reports: A bill introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, which, if passed, would extend voting rights to non-resident property owners in municipalities where at least 75 percent of the real estate is owned by non-resident property owners, is directly related to Ocean City and could change the face of government and politics in the resort forever.

    Enfranchising non-resident property owners in Ocean City is certainly not a new issue and has been debated in the resort for decades. Currently, over 90 percent of all real estate in the resort, including commercial property, is owned by non-resident property owners with around 77 percent of the residential property owned by out-of-towners.

    Conversely, just 2,600 of the roughly 32,000 residential units in Ocean City are currently owner-occupied year round, but the small resident owner minority has all of the political clout in the resort. The vast number of disenfranchised non-resident property owners in Ocean City has made appeals in the past to gain voting rights in the resort to no avail, but a bill introduced in the General Assembly could settle the decades-old issue once and for all.

    House Bill 1508, introduced by Frederick County Delegate Galen Clagett, attempts to address the issue of voting rights for non-resident property owners in a municipality. The bill states if more than 75 percent of the property in a municipality is owned by persons who reside outside the municipality, the municipal government shall grant the non-resident property owners the right to vote and participate in elections. -- Nonresident Voting Bill Linked To Ocean City

    March 8, 2006

    Cherokee Nation: "Freedmen" are citizens and can vote

    The Muskogee Phoenix reports: Cherokee Freedman retain tribal citizenship under the tribe’s 1975 constitution and are legally entitled to vote, the tribe’s highest court ruled 2-1 Tuesday.

    “This will end up being a decision of historic importance,” said Tahlequah attorney Nate Young III, a Cherokee.

    Freedmen will again have the right to access tribal services and to vote in tribal elections, Young said.

    Judicial Appeals Tribunal Justices Tracy Leeds and Darrell Dowty concurred that to exclude a class of citizens from membership, the constitution would have to do so with specific and clear language.

    “Exclusion cannot be left to inference by omission or by silence.,” Dowty said.

    Lucy Allen, 73, a Freedmen, sued the tribal council, the tribal registrar and the tribal registration committee in November 2004 because legislation at the time said she had to prove she was “Cherokee by blood.” -- Freedmen are tribal citizens

    "Freedmen" are the descendants of slaves owned by the Cherokees. The Court's decision is here.

    March 7, 2006

    Virgin Islands: 3rd Circuit reassigns long-delayed voting rights case

    The Virgin Islands News reports: The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reassigned the lawsuit demanding that territory residents have the rights to vote for president and have voting representation in Congress to a federal judge from New Jersey.

    Krim Ballentine, a St. Thomas activist and 2004 candidate for V.I. delegate to Congress, filed a lawsuit in District Court in 1999 challenging the Revised Organic Act of 1954.

    Residents of the Virgin Islands - and other U.S. territories and possessions - are not represented in the Electoral College, which selects the nation's president. While all states have two U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives based on population, the Virgin Islands - as well as other U.S. territories and possessions and the District of Columbia - is represented in Congress only by a nonvoting delegate who can propose legislation and serve on committees.

    Ballentine, a retired U.S. marshal who was born in the mainland United States, said that his lawsuit was a measure of last resort. The government that transferred him to the Virgin Islands did not warn him that he would be losing his right to vote for president when he moved here. -- Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Newspaper, A Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper, Virgin Islands Guide, Virgin Islands Info

    Thanks to Michael Richardson for the tip.

    February 23, 2006

    Washington State: unpaid court costs block voting rights

    The New York Times reports: It is increasingly expensive to be a criminal.

    Beverly Dubois, a 49-year-old former park ranger in Washington State, spent nine months in jail for growing and selling marijuana. She still owes the state almost $1,900 for court costs and various fees. Until she pays up, the state has taken away her right to vote.

    Wilbert Rideau, 64, a convicted killer, spent 44 years in Louisiana prisons. Not long after he was released last year, he filed for bankruptcy in an effort to avoid the state's attempts to collect $127,000 in court costs.

    Almost every encounter with the criminal justice system these days can give rise to a fee. There are application fees and co-payments for public defenders. Sentences include court costs, restitution and contributions to various funds. In Washington State, people convicted of certain crimes are also charged $100 so their DNA can be put in a database. -- Debt to Society Is Least of Costs for Ex-Convicts - New York Times

    February 20, 2006

    Kentucky: legislature considering constitutional amendment to restore felons' voting rights

    AP reports: Lawmakers are weighing a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to felons completing their sentence, probation and paying restitution.

    But, with the legislative session reaching its halfway point, it's main sponsor, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, and groups supporting House Bill 480 fear time will run out if it isn't heard by a House committee soon.

    "I think the right to vote is such a critical right that it helps show ex-offenders that they are, in fact, being included in our society," Crenshaw said.

    Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration, along with some commonwealth's attorneys, oppose the measure. -- | News for Louisville, Kentucky | Top Stories

    February 15, 2006

    Maryland: Gov. Ehrlich to veto felon voting bill

    The Washington Times reports: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday vowed to veto a bill that would restore voting rights to felons, including the state's most violent criminals, immediately upon their release from prison.

    "I don't think you reward the franchise to those who commit the most horrific crimes," Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, told The Washington Times. "Full restoration of every right is inappropriate."

    Dozens of House Democrats have co-sponsored legislation that would allow about 150,000 murderers, rapists, robbers and other felons to vote this year, and the state Democratic Party has endorsed the bill.

    The bill's lead sponsor -- Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, Baltimore Democrat -- said yesterday that Mr. Ehrlich's position reinforces the racist underpinnings of the state law that denies the vote to felons, of whom about 85,000 are black. -- Ehrlich to veto bill on felons-Metropolitan-The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

    February 10, 2006

    Alabama: Singleton introduces bill to restore voting rights on release from prison

    AP reports: Several black lawmakers expressed their support Thursday for a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons upon their release from prison.

    State Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who is sponsoring the bill, said the current system, which requires felons to apply for a voting certificate, has created long delays in restoring voting rights and disenfranchises inmates who have already "paid their debt to society."

    About two dozen advocates for voting rights restoration joined Singleton, Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, D-Mobile, and Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, on the Statehouse steps Thursday, holding handwritten signs reading "Unlock the Vote" and "Unlock the Block" at the news conference.

    The bill states that of the 262,000 felons who have lost their voting rights under Alabama's law, half are black. Ross told reporters that while the law disproportionately affects blacks, who make up only 25 percent of the state population, voting rights should be everyone's concern. -- Welcome to

    Alabama: a confusing case about felon voting rights

    The Columbus GA Ledger-Enquirer reports: After listening to an hour of lawyers' arguments Thursday about who should represent the state in the case challenging Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed's right to keep his post, a Houston County, Ala., judge said he'll decide that issue next week.

    At the heart of the challenge is whether Reed, convicted of burglary in Columbus in 1975, is legally holding office. Reed, 51, served five years on probation after his conviction for burglarizing Safe Lite Optical on Jacqueline Drive nearly 31 years ago.

    According to Alabama law, a convicted felon not pardoned in the state where the offense occurred is not eligible to hold public office in Alabama. Reed's voting rights were restored at the end of his sentence, but his political rights weren't restored by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles until December -- after the challenge was filed and more than a year after he was elected. Reed, who didn't attend the hearing, represents Russell County District 4. -- Ledger-Enquirer | 02/10/2006 | Judge holds off on Reed case

    January 26, 2006

    Maryland: Dems push bill to restore ballot to all released prisoners

    The Washington Times reports: Democratic lawmakers, who have long pushed to restore voting rights to Maryland felons, say racial politics and election-year considerations make this the year they open the polls to every ex-convict.

    "This law seriously disenfranchises a large number of African-Americans," said Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat who is gathering sponsors for a voting-rights restoration bill she plans to submit.

    "Their disenfranchisement impacts the power of African-Americans in this state," said Mrs. Marriott, whose bill would give all felons the vote immediately upon release from prison.

    If Mrs. Marriott's bill succeeds this time -- it has died in committee the past three years -- an estimated 150,000 felons would be able to cast ballots in Maryland. About 85,000 of them are black and likely Democrats, according to Justice Maryland, a penal reform group that supports felon voting rights. -- Measure restores vote to all felons-Metropolitan-The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

    January 25, 2006

    "Voter Fraud=Political Bait-and-Switch"

    Lorraine C. Minnite writes on Democracy Dispatches: From the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, to pundits like Michelle Malkin, the vast rightwing political blogosphere, and the Republican Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate, voter fraud is being trumpeted as a dire threat to American democracy. The proffered antidote: restore integrity to our electoral system through "reform" by way of stricter voter identification requirements at the polls.

    Before the 2004 election, Malkin warned that, "Voter fraud is breaking out all over." To back up her claim, she followed the standard formula used by voter fraud scaremongers--she rattled off on-going "investigations;" she vilified the "motor voter" law, citing no evidence connecting the law to fraud; she bemoaned a lack of "swift, stiff punishment" for violators and blamed for the alleged fraud the "illegal alien lobby and ethnic grievance groups" or anyone else who opposed the new voter ID movement. ...

    The fact is there is no data supporting the argument that voter fraud of the kind conjured by the Right is imperiling American democracy. None. -- Democracy Dispatches

    Georgia: Senate approves voter I.D. bill

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: Georgia lawmakers on Tuesday moved closer to final approval of a bill requiring that voters show some form of government-issued photo identification at the polls.

    The Georgia Senate voted 32-22 in favor of the measure, mostly on party lines, overriding the protests of many Democrats who contended that it would disenfranchise poor, black and elderly voters while doing nothing to effectively combat vote fraud.

    Republican Senate leaders said they have listened to those concerns and have worked to make the new voter ID measure a better piece of legislation. They said they are confident that this version will withstand legal challenges.

    Last year, the Legislature approved and Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law a measure requiring government-issued photo identification for Georgia voters. But in October, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy temporarily suspended the law, calling it an unconstitutional poll tax that would not effectively prevent vote fraud. -- Senate approves voter ID |

    January 23, 2006

    Georgia: voter I.D. bill before the Senate on Tuesday

    AP reports: Voter identification - the issue that in the past year has prompted walkouts, a lawsuit and heated debates that saw some lawmakers singing spirituals and brandishing shackles - is set to return to the state Capitol this week.

    Tuesday, the Senate is expected to take up the thorny issue of requiring Georgia voters to show a picture ID when they arrive at the polls.

    The vote, which is expected to pass in the Republican-dominated Senate largely along party lines, would set the new law in motion for the second time in two years and would need a signature by Gov. Sonny Perdue and approval by the U.S. Department of Justice if it is to go into effect before this year's elections.

    The legislation would require a driver's license, military ID or a state-issued identification card with a photo to vote. It removes several forms of identification currently accepted, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/23/2006 | Voter ID heading back before Ga. legislators

    January 19, 2006

    Georgia: Cox breaks tie in favor of paying for defense of voter I.D. law

    AP reports: A Democratic opponent of Georgia's voter identification law on Thursday blasted Secretary of State Cathy Cox for supporting an allotment of more than $2 million to defend the law.

    "This vote is a betrayal," state Sen. Gloria Butler said. "It is a vote against every poor, minority and elderly voter in the state."

    Cox, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, opposes the voter ID law, which critics have dubbed racist. But, as chairwoman of the state Elections Board, Cox this week voted to provide $2 million to pay for future legal fees in the case. Cox's vote broke a 2-2 tie on the board.

    Her spokesman, Chris Riggall, said that as a state official Cox was responsible for ensuring that the state's legal bills are paid. The state elections board and Cox herself are named as defendants in the lawsuit. -- AP Wire | 01/19/2006 | Cox draws fire for voting to fund defense of state's voter ID law

    Alabama: senator proposes easing the rules on restoration of ex-felons' voting rights

    The Birmingham News reports: A state senator has proposed a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who are eligible.

    Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said his bill would end the need for felons to apply to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Felons would be able to go the county registrars, he said.

    Singleton said his bill would strengthen a 2003 law, which allows most Alabama felons to apply to the parole board for approval to vote. "When you look at the bill that has already passed, we've had a lot of problems with it."

    He said the number of people who have applied for their voting rights to be returned has resulted in long delays for the board, keeping eligible offenders from voting for many months. -- Bill proposes automatically restoring voting rights

    January 16, 2006

    Canada: prisoners voting in national election

    CBC News reports: Advance polls opened across the country Friday, including at the Stony Mountain Institution, north of Winnipeg, where inmates cast their ballots in the federal election.

    Inmates were allowed a few at a time into an open area in the prison where a polling station was set up. Officials at the institution expect voter turnout to exceed 50 per cent.

    Many inmates said they had a strong interest in the parties' crime and justice platforms.

    Les Henry, who was convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife, would not say how he voted, but he said the mandatory minimum sentences proposed by all three major parties would not work. -- CBC Manitoba - Inmates interested in parties' law-and-order platforms

    January 14, 2006

    Alabama: GOP drops anti-crossover proposal

    AP reports: The Alabama Republican Party won't ban crossover voting by Democrats in the Republican runoff June 27.

    The Alabama Republican Party's steering committee voted unanimously Friday not to pursue a ban at this time.

    The 21-member steering committee had originally recommended that the 350-member State Republican Executive Committee vote today to ban crossover voting.

    But after getting feedback from party members and voters, the committee voted Friday to study the issue more. It directed party Chairman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh to appoint a group to conduct the study and make recommendations. --
    Republican committee holds off ban on crossover voting

    January 12, 2006

    Alabama: Roy Moore opposes change in Republican rules and sees it as directed at him

    AP reports: Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who qualified Wednesday for the Republican nomination for governor, doesn't want his political party to ban crossover voting in any Republican primary runoff.

    The party's steering committee has recommended that the State Republican Executive Committee vote Saturday to change party rules so that people who vote in the Democratic primary on June 6 can't vote in the Republican runoff on June 27.

    Moore opposes the change, describing it as an attempt to interfere with the election.

    The Alabama GOP has traditionally allowed crossover voting as a tool to build the party, but now that Republicans hold many of the offices elected statewide in Alabama, the steering committee said the time has come for a change. -- Tuscaloosa

    January 10, 2006

    Alabama: A.G. refuses to list disfranchising crimes

    AP reports: Attorney General Troy King says he will not issue a comprehensive list of felonies that would bar convicts from voting because of the ongoing litigation against Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who says such a list is greatly needed by Alabama's registrars.

    King, in a letter delivered to Worley Tuesday, said lawsuits filed against her by convicted felons claiming Alabama has wrongly denied their voting rights prevent him from intervening on the issue. He said the issue is now a matter for the courts. ...

    The issue of felons registering to vote came to light after the state Board of Pardons and Paroles announced in May that, according to a 1996 amendment to the Alabama constitution, many state prisoners convicted of drug and alcohol felonies may be eligible to vote — despite common belief that felons are prohibited from casting ballots.

    The board received a March advisory opinion from King, who said only felonies involving "moral turpitude" — meaning the crimes are inherently immoral — disqualify a convict from voting.

    The finding caught state voting officials off guard, prompting a request by Worley to King seeking a comprehensive list of crimes that forfeit voting rights and those that don't. -- NewsFlash - Ag declines to issue list of crimes that ban felons from voting

    Disclosure: I am one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in the litigation against the Secretary of State.

    January 5, 2006

    Georgia: proposal to make photo I.D.s easier to obtain

    AP reports: The leader of the Georgia House said Wednesday a new proposal to revise the state's controversial voter ID requirements would likely put the brakes on expanding a program that brings licensing services to the doorsteps of the poor.

    Few have sought out the Georgia Licensing on Wheels bus, which began to rove neighborhoods after Georgia lawmakers passed a law requiring voters to bring a state-issued photo ID to the polls. The law eliminated the use of some forms of identification to vote, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills.

    "It's not successful because there's not that many people who don't have some form of photo identification," said House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram. "It's out there, and they can get to it, but there's not that many people out there without those IDs. I doubt if we'll do any more buses."

    Richardson said the new proposal, which will likely be introduced next week, would "make it so easy to get a photo ID to vote that if you complain, you're just looking for something to complain about."

    The proposal is still being drafted, but Richardson said it would allow photo IDs to be issued for free to voters who can't afford them. Critics argue that the state-issued cards - which cost as much as $35 - will suppress the vote of the poor, the elderly and minorities. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/05/2006 | Speaker: Proposal could halt voter ID service

    December 21, 2005

    Alabama: Suits filed regarding ex-felon voting

    The Birmingham News reports: Three Alabamians, one convicted of felony driving under the influence and two of drug possession, claim in a federal lawsuit they are among hundreds being denied the right to vote.

    The suit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, contends that Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley violates Alabama's constitution by requiring all felons to apply to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have voting rights restored.

    The suit says the state constitution is clear that people convicted of certain felonies including DUI and drug possession - unlike murder, rape or robbery - do not lose their voting rights and do not need to apply for an eligibility certificate from the board. ...

    Edward Still, a Birmingham lawyer handling the suit locally, contends that what the secretary of state has been doing violates the Voting Rights Act because it involves a change in election procedure without first getting approval from the Justice Department. -- Felons' rights to vote at issue

    Update: The complaint in the federal case and the amended complaint in the state case are now on my website.

    December 15, 2005

    Virginia: "Governor Warner -- tear down this wall"

    The headline is my reaction after reading Spencer Overton's post that begins: My understanding is Virginia Governor Mark Warner may run for president. On most fronts (including his "Forward Together" blog), he seems like an attractive candidate.

    I have one concern. I hope Governor Warner restores voting rights to 243,000 disenfranchised Americans before his term ends on January 14, 2006.

    Virginia is one of only four states that disenfranchise all former offenders for life, even after they complete their sentences (the other three are Alabama, Florida, and Kentucky). These four states along with Armenia are the only democracies in the world that disenfranchise all former offenders for life. 80% of Americans believe that those who have served their time should be allowed to vote.

    As a result, 243,000 Americans in Virginia—about 5% of the voting age population-have completed all terms of their sentences but can’t vote. African Americans make up 20% of Virginia’s population, and about 52% of those disenfranchised. Sixteen percent of all adult African Americans in Virginia (including 25% of black males) cannot vote due to a felony conviction. -- Gov. Mark Warner & 243,000 Disenfranchised Americans

    And, for the neo-Confederates, Spencer has illustrated his post with the Confederate Battle Flag.

    Commentary on Felon Disfranchisement

    Sasha Abramsky writes on Democracy Dispatches: Twenty-five years ago, a young African-American man from Dothan, Alabama, got drunk and wandered into a stranger's house. Frightened, the woman called the police and the teenager was arrested. He was told that he faced several years in prison for breaking and entering; instead, the judge listened to testimonials about the 18-year-old's character from the local boys' club and other organizations, and decided to put him on probation.

    Over the past quarter century, the man has remained crime-free and has become a model citizen. He has been a volunteer for decades with the Boy's Club, a mentor to local teenagers-yet, because of his one felony conviction, he still cannot vote. -- Democracy Dispatches

    December 14, 2005

    New Jersey: Brennan Center wieghs fraud reports and finds them wanting

    The Brennan Center says in a press release: A new analysis conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Dr. Michael McDonald, an elections expert at George Mason University, found factual and methodological errors in a recent voter fraud report submitted to the state Attorney General in September. The report claimed to have uncovered deep problems of voter fraud in New Jersey. In its continuing effort to scrutinize the accuracy of claims of voter fraud, the Brennan Center enlisted Dr. McDonald’s assistance in analyzing the report’s underlying data.

    The analysts found serious methodological problems with the report, echoing the problems with the notoriously flawed “suspected felon” purge lists in Florida in 2000 and 2004. They cautioned election officials not to rely on the flawed report and urged the Attorney General to follow the normal statutory procedures for maintaining the state’s voter registration rolls.

    “Even a cursory examination shows that the methodology used to develop the alleged fraud lists is seriously flawed,” said Dr. McDonald, who analyzed the lists of allegedly illegitimate votes submitted with the report, along with the New Jersey voter file. “For example, it fails to resolve inconsistent data within individual records. Moreover, by assuming that two people who share a name and birth date are the same individual, the report fails to take into account even the most basic principles of statistics.” -- Brennan Center

    November 30, 2005

    Cert. Petition in Igartua v. United States

    Gregorio Igartua de la Rosa, et al, filed a cert petition on 22 November for review of the 1st Circuit's decision.

    The version
    I have does not Questions Presented or a cover page, so I have reproduced the major argument headings below:

    The Federal District Court, and the Appeals Court “en banc” (1st Cir), Erred in Determining that Puerto Rico Cannot Have Electors Without a Constitutional Amendment, Notwithstanding Judicial and Congressional Applicability of Constitutional Provisions to Puerto Rico Without Previous Requirement of Amendment.

    The Federal District Court, and the Appeals Court “en banc”, Erred in Determining that Petitioners Request of Their Right to Vote in Presidential Elections Presents a Political Question, or Requires Puerto Rico to Become a State, Disregarding Constitutional Applicability to Puerto Rico Without Political or Statehood Requirement .

    The Appeals Court “en banc” Erred in Determining, in Defiance to US Constitution Art. VI, That Treaties to Which the United States is Signatory Are Not Obligatory, But Mere Aspirational Instruments Not Supporting Petitioners’ Claim.

    The Court Of Appeals “En Banc” Erred in Denying Petitioners Request For Declaratory Judgment and for Relief, Notwithstanding Domestic Law and Treaty Provisions Providing Judicial Remedies for Petitioners Voting Rights Request

    The case is No. 05-650.

    November 15, 2005

    New Sentencing Project report on felony disfranchisement

    The Sentencing Project writes: A new report published by The Sentencing Project finds widespread confusion and errors in the implementation of felony disenfranchisement laws. A 'Crazy-Quilt' of Tiny Pieces: State and Local Administration of American Criminal Disenfranchisement Laws, reports on the findings of a national study of elections officials conducted by Alec Ewald, a political scientist at Union College. Among the report’s key findings are: more than one-third (37%) of local elections officials interviewed misunderstand state eligibility law; in at least five states a misdemeanor conviction also results in the loss of voting rights; disenfranchisement laws result in contradictory policies even within the same state; and, there is significant variation in how states respond to persons with felony convictions from other states. The report concludes that disenfranchisement is a “time consuming, expensive practice” and calls on state policymakers to review voting restrictions, particularly for non-incarcerated people.

    November 14, 2005

    Why the Supremes dissed Johnson

    Steve Vladeck reflects on today's denial of cert in Johnson v. Bush: The denial, the Court's third in the last year on a felon disenfranchisement issue, seems all the more odd given the absence of a dissent... Is it really true that no one on the Court finds felon disenfranchisement, even post-sentence disenfranchisement, worthy of review, if not his or her wrath?

    Or, is it perhaps more subtle than that, since several crucial sections of the VRA are up for reauthorization in 2007? [Hat tip to my colleague Lindsay Harrison, for the reauthorization point.] In a climate where Congress is hardly reluctant to overturn Supreme Court statutory interpretation decisions (see, e.g., the Graham Amendment), maybe the Court is reticent to add fodder to the reauthorization fight. Or, perhaps, the Court's waiting for a circuit split (although that would only work, I imagine, if the Ninth Circuit had a chance to weigh in, which for ex-felons, could only arise out of a challenge to Arizona or Nevada law, both of which are fairly narrow in disenfranchising only certain ex-felons, at least according to this chart). Or, maybe the Justices have just decided that election law doesn't put the Court in its best light. -- PrawfsBlawg: Another Week, Another Denial of Cert. in a Voting Rights Case

    Wisconsin: Election Law Review panel proposes changes in state law

    AP reports: Felons would have to sign a new document as they're released from prison acknowledging they can't vote and voter registration cards would include a new checkoff for people to swear they aren't criminals under draft reforms a committee approved Monday.

    The Legislative Council Special Committee on Election Law Review, made up of state lawmakers, municipal clerks and election law attorneys, passed the reforms on a 10-2 vote. The package now goes to the full Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council. If that body approves them, they'll be introduced into both the state Assembly and Senate simultaneously.

    The reforms stem from reports in Milwaukee County that some 4,600 more ballots were cast in the November 2004 election than voters tallied at the polls, that hundreds of votes were cast by felons and that people used fake names and addresses when registering to vote.

    The draft would require municipal clerks to keep soldiers' absentee ballots that arrive after the election but are postmarked prior to Election Day so they could be used in a possible recount. -- AP Wire | 11/14/2005 | Committee approves election reforms

    November 10, 2005

    Florida: felon disfranchisement on SCOTUS conference list today

    Legal Times reports: The Supreme Court is about to face its first major voting rights dispute since the arrival of new Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who was criticized for opposing voting rights legislation as an aide in the Reagan Justice Department two dozen years ago.

    At issue is a challenge to Florida’s 1968 law that permanently disenfranchises more than 800,000 convicted felons in the state. The case, Johnson v. Bush, will be one of dozens discussed at the Court's private conference Thursday to determine if they should be added to the docket for review.

    Lawyers for a class of 613,000 felons who have completed their sentences claim that the Florida law disproportionately affects African-Americans, disenfranchising 10 percent of voting-age blacks in the state compared with 4 percent of the non-African-American population.

    That contrast cannot be explained solely by higher arrest rates or higher participation in crimes by blacks, says Catherine Weiss, a lawyer for the Brennan Center for Justice who represents the class. Because of "bias in the criminal justice system" at every step, Weiss asserts, more African-Americans than whites are convicted of felonies, sentenced, and denied clemency. -- Supreme Court Asked to Hear Voting Rights Case

    Disclosure: I was one of the counsel for the plaintiffs when this case was filed.

    November 7, 2005

    Massachusetts: Lawrence must notify voters by tomorrow's elections

    AP reports: A federal judge on Monday denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to extend or change Election Day voting hours in Lawrence, but said the city must make an effort through local media to notify voters of their rights.

    The ACLU had filed a motion to keep polls open for an extra day claiming that thousands of city voters risked being disenfranchised in Tuesday's election because they were placed on inactive voter lists.

    But U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said it was too late and it would be too costly to change the election the night before residents are scheduled to go to the polls. He asked lawyers for both parties to agree on a statement the city would pay the town newspaper, three radio stations and the cable station to run explaining in Spanish and English who is eligible to vote.

    The brief statement informs voters that even if they are listed as an inactive voter, they are still allowed to vote in Tuesday's election. -- Judge orders Lawrence officials to notify inactive voters they may be eligible -

    Today's milestones

    AP reports: Today is Monday, Nov. 7, the 311th day of 2005. There are 54 days left in the year. ...

    On this date:

    In 1893, the state of Colorado granted its women the right to vote.

    In 1916, Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to Congress. -- Today in History - Nov. 7

    October 31, 2005

    Iowa: court upholds Governor's executive order restoring voting rights to ex-felons

    The Des Moines Register reports: An Iowa court Friday upheld Gov. Tom Vilsack's executive order restoring voting rights to all felons who have served their state sentences.

    Muscatine County Attorney Gary Allison challenged the July action by Vilsack, filing a petition to block it in District Court in Muscatine.

    Vilsack, a Democrat, was criticized by Republicans for the move, which puts Iowa among 47 states that allow felons the right to vote.

    Before Vilsack signed the order, felons could ask to have their voting rights restored but were subject to a lengthy process involving the state parole board and governor's office.

    Republicans accused Vilsack of having a partisan motive for the action, which they said favored Democrats in the closely divided political battleground state. --

    Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

    October 25, 2005

    Wisconsin: U.S. House holds hearings on voter I.D.

    AP reports: Requiring voters to show a photo identification card would disenfranchise minorities, the elderly and the poor, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, told a congressional committee Monday.

    But Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, told the Committee on House Administration that a voter ID requirement is a simple way to restore people's trust in the integrity of elections.

    The committee held the hearing in Milwaukee at Green's request to discuss problems from last year's presidential election in Wisconsin. ...

    Sharon Robinson, the director of Milwaukee's Department of Administration, said many instances of voter irregularity in 2004 were more a result of administrative oversight than outright fraud. For example, some 4,600 more ballots were cast than voters tallied at the polls, but Robinson said poll workers sometimes forgot to tear up the pink voter numbers that kept count of voters for each ballot distributed. The result, she said, was that the same voter number might have been used more than once.

    Moore asked Robinson whether a voter ID bill could prevent such administrative snafus in the future.

    "Photo IDs would not have fixed the problem," Robinson said. She said the greater priority should be to provide effective and uniform training to poll workers. -- The Capital Times

    October 18, 2005

    Georgia: federal court enjoins voter i.d. act

    Judge Harold Murphy has enjoined the Georgia law requiring in-person Voters to show photo IDs. Rick Hasen has some details. I will add more when I have a chance to read the opinion.

    The opinion is 123 pages long. It is on Pacer in 4 parts, but I had to divide it up for uploading. Here they are:

    Part 1a

    Part 1b

    Part 2a

    Part 2b

    Part 3a

    Part 3b

    Part 4a

    Part 4b

    October 14, 2005

    Georgia: voter i.d. case now in the hands of Judge Murphy

    The Walker County Messenger reports: A federal judge promised a quick decision Wednesday on a motion to temporarily stop election officials from requiring photo identification at the polls.

    Judge Harold L. Murphy heard arguments from both sides in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Rome.

    Murphy said he would consider the day’s testimony and reread submitted depositions and briefs before issuing an order. While he gave no hint of his opinion during questioning from the bench, his final statement indicated his ruling will hinge on constitutional law.

    “I have a lot of respect for the (state) Legislature,” Murphy said. “But I also say I have more respect for the Constitution of the state and the United States.” ...

    A coalition of diverse organizations is challenging the new state law, which was enacted by the Georgia General Assembly this year and precleared by the U.S. Justice Department. Their lead attorney, Emmet Bondurant, asked for a preliminary injunction until the issue is settled.

    Bondurant argued that the requirement violates a constitutional guarantee that registered voters who meet age and residency requirements shall be allowed to vote unless they are convicted felons or mentally incompetent.

    He also said the $20 ID cost makes it an illegal poll tax and the legislature’s claim it addresses fraud is a pretext because it does not apply to absentee ballots or registration — the only areas where fraud has been documented. ...

    Attorney Mark Cohen ... said the Georgia General Assembly has the authority to regulate elections as it sees fit. He also noted that the ID fee can’t be considered a poll tax because photo identification is not required with absentee ballots. -- Judge promises quick decision in voter photo ID case

    October 12, 2005

    Georgia: First testimony in voter ID trial

    AP reports: Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox testified at a hearing Wednesday in Rome that she had problems with a bill requiring voters to show a photo identification before casting ballots.

    Cox testified in federal court that she had written Gov. Sonny Perdue in April that she had concerns about the bill and said Wednesday that she had hoped he would veto it.

    Opponents of the law hope the court will pass an injunction blocking its enforcement. U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy said he has to wait for more filings expected Thursday from attorneys filing on behalf of the state and then will make a decision.

    The measure - which later became state law - requires photo identification for people voting in person but not absentee. The law eliminates the use of several previously accepted forms of identification to vote, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills, and requires voters to produce a picture ID such as a driver's license, military identification or state-issued identification card. -- AP Wire | 10/12/2005 | Georgia photo ID law attacked in court

    October 8, 2005

    Rep. Feeney wants photo ID for all voters

    Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL-24) has introduced H.R. 3910, the Verifying the Outcome of Tomorrow's Elections Act of 2005. In keeping with the current trend, the acronym must spell something, in this case VOTE.

    The title is, "To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals to present a government-issued photo identification as a condition of voting in elections for Federal office, to prohibit any individual from tabulating votes in an election for Federal office unless the individual has been subject to a criminal background check, and for other purposes."

    Among the other purposes: an auditable paper record of each vote cast; and prohibiting per-application payment for distribution or collection of voter registration applications.

    Texas: Roving Rove's qualification to vote challenged

    Tim Grieve writes on It's not quite an indictment in the Valerie Plame case, but Karl Rove may soon have some legal trouble back home in Texas, too. A resident of Comfort, Texas, is urging her local district attorney to follow up on a newspaper report that Rove has been voting in Texas even though he doesn't live there anymore. ...

    That might have been the end of things if it weren't for Comfort resident Frances Lovett, who has written a letter to the Kerr County district attorney asking for an investigation into whether Rove has been voting in Texas illegally. There's no word yet on what the district attorney will do, and the White House is insisting that Rove has acted within the dictates of the law -- at least this time. -- - War Room

    September 23, 2005

    New Jersey: AG will oversee voter fraud investigation

    Newsday reports: The state will oversee a county-by-county investigation into allegations of widespread voter fraud brought by Republicans, the Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday.

    In a letter dated Wednesday and sent to lawyers representing the Republican State Committee, Attorney General Peter Harvey said the state would coordinate the probe and report its findings. However, the investigation must be conducted at the county level, he said, because that is where official voter registration records are kept.

    New Jersey Republicans last week called on Harvey to review state election rolls, saying a four-month investigation by the party uncovered widespread irregularities. The GOP asked Harvey's office to conduct an investigation before Oct. 11, the last day New Jerseyans can register to vote before the Nov. 8 election.

    More than 6,500 voters cast ballots in New Jersey and another state in last November's election, while 4,755 ballots were cast by deceased voters, according to Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson. -- Attorney general announces voter fraud probe

    September 11, 2005

    Texas: state lawyer fired for [seemingly] questioning Rove's eligibility to vote

    The San Antonio Express-News reports: A state agency lawyer quoted in a nationally-circulated news story as questioning Karl Rove's eligibility to vote in Kerr County is out of a job and feeling twice burned.

    Elizabeth Reyes said she was fired Tuesday as an attorney in the elections division of the Texas secretary of state's office because she appeared in a Washington Post story Saturday about the presidential adviser.

    The article, which was reprinted in papers across the country, quoted Reyes as saying Rove's ownership of Kerr County property may not qualify him to vote there.

    Reyes, a 30-year-old San Antonio native, is seeking reinstatement to the job she'd held since May.

    She said she was dismissed on grounds of violating an agency policy that allows staff to respond to routine questions but directs them to refer controversial, sensitive or legal inquiries to their supervisors or a press officer. -- Metro | State

    Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the link.

    September 6, 2005

    Georgia: groups to monitor elections for voter ID problems

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: Several groups opposed to a new law requiring voters to show state-issued photo ID at the polls announced Tuesday plans to monitor local elections on Sept. 20.

    The Rev. Joseph Lowery, head of the Coalition for the People's Agenda, said monitors will "make sure there's no abuse of citizens who want to exercise their right to vote."

    Thirty-three Georgia counties and two cities are holding elections Sept. 20. Most are referendums for special purpose local option sales taxes, including one in Cobb County, but some include races for city council posts. Augusta voters will select a replacement for Democratic state Sen. Charles Walker, convicted earlier this year of federal fraud charges. -- Voter ID opponents to monitor elections |

    August 16, 2005

    Felon disfranchisement at the Supremes

    Lyle Denniston reports on SCOTUSblog: The deepening controversy over denial of voting rights to those convicted of serious crimes -- an issue that has split the Circuit Courts in recent years -- is back at the Supreme Court, in an appeal challenging a Florida law. The appeal in Johnson v. Bush, Governor of Florida (docket 05-212) was filed a week ago by attorneys with the Brennan Center for Justice in New York.

    The Supreme Court twice passed up review of that issue last Term, refusing in November to hear cases from Washington State and New York State. But there were good reasons for the Court not to get involved in either of those cases at that point: the Washington case had been sent back by the Ninth Circuit to a District Court for further fact-finding, and the New York case came to the Court amid clear indications that the Second Circuit was going to grant review of that case en banc if the Supreme Court refused to review a panel decision.

    The Washington case (Farrakhan, et al, v. Locke, et al.) returned to U.S. District Court and is now scheduled to go to a non-jury trial in Spokane beginning next March 6. (In the District Court, it is docket 96-76). The en banc Second Circuit held a hearing on the New York case (Muntaqim v. Coombe, Circuit docket 01-7260) on June 22, and a decision is pending. -- SCOTUSblog

    I will let you know when the Brennan Center posts the "appeal" (which should be a cert petition, I think). [Hint, hint to the Brennan Center folks.]

    August 5, 2005

    Iowa: follow-up on Gov. Vilsack's order

    The Washington Post reports: It's been a month since Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) issued an executive order giving tens of thousands of Hawkeye State felons the right to vote. Experts expect the change to benefit Democrats, at least at the margin, but say it is too early to know how it will echo in the perennial battleground state. ...

    But the governor's order is being challenged in court, and the state's Republican House leader has said the chamber will take up the issue when it reconvenes in January. -- A Matter of Convictions

    August 4, 2005

    Puerto Rico: 1st Circuit says "no" to right to vote

    AP reports: A federal appeals court in Boston has said for the fourth time that residents of Puerto Rico do not have the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections.

    In a 5-2 ruling issued late Wednesday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a petition by attorney Gregorio Igartua, saying the U.S. territory must either amend its constitution, or Puerto Rico must become a state, before its residents can vote for president.

    "The case for giving Puerto Ricans the right to vote in presidential elections is fundamentally a political one, and must be made through political means," Chief Judge Michael Boudin wrote.

    The ruling marks the fourth time since 1994 that the 1st Circuit has denied such a bid by Igartua, who had asked the full court to review the case after a three-judge panel last year rejected his arguments. -- - News - Court Again Rejects Puerto Rican Vote

    June 18, 2005

    Iowa: Gov. Vilsack will restore all ex-felons' voting rights

    AP reports: Gov. Tom Vilsack said Friday he will soon sign an order restoring the voting rights of convicted felons who have served their sentences.

    Currently, felons can apply for the right to vote, but it must be approved by the state's parole board and the governor in a lengthy process.

    Vilsack, a Democrat, said the current system is too time-consuming and unfairly affects minorities. His executive order would automatically restore felons' voting rights upon completion of their sentences. ...

    A bipartisan panel of legislators asked the governor for an executive order after determining that lawmakers lacked the constitutional authority to lift the ban. He plans to sign the measure July 4, affecting as many as 500 to 600 felons a month. -- Iowa Gov. to Restore Felons' Voting Rights

    Thanks to TalkLeft for the heads up on this.

    June 10, 2005

    Minnesota: Supreme Court says let the evidence in

    The Pioneer Press reports: Richard Joseph Jacobson, accused in what prosecutors call a blatantly illegal attempt to stack a 2002 municipal election, scored a modest victory in a ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday.

    Jacobson, owner of the defunct Jake's strip club in Dakota County's tiny town of Coates, is facing felony criminal charges alleging conspiracy to procure unlawful voting and conspiracy to commit forgery.

    The charges arose after 94 people — strippers, employees and others — registered to vote using the club's address and not their individual places of residence, as state law requires.

    In mounting his defense, Jacobson wanted to show at trial that he had no intent to break voter-registration laws and was reasonably following the legal advice of one of his attorneys, Randall B. Tigue of Minneapolis.

    Jacobson also wanted to use in his defense a letter written by Phil Prokopowicz, Dakota County's chief deputy prosecutor. In that letter, Prokopowicz found no criminal wrongdoing by Minneapolis police officers who registered to vote using work rather than home addresses.

    Over prosecutors' objections, the Supreme Court agreed that Jacobson is entitled to present both arguments and let a jury decide. -- St. Paul Pioneer Press | 06/10/2005 | Court sides with strip-club owner

    Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

    May 27, 2005

    Kuwait: women given the right to vote -- if they abide by Islamic law

    Reuters reports: Kuwaiti women hailed as historic a decision to allow them to vote and run for parliament -- a law passed despite fierce resistance by Islamist and conservative MPs. ...

    The all-male parliament passed the law on Monday after a nine-hour session.

    The pro-reform government tempted lawmakers by backing a popular bill to raise salaries for most public and private employees.

    Islamist MPs added a clause stipulating women must abide by Islamic law when voting or running for office. This would imply separate polling stations for men and women. -- International News Article |

    May 18, 2005

    Alabama: some felons can vote after all

    AP reports: Many state prisoners convicted of drug and alcohol felonies may be eligible to vote, even while incarcerated, though they probably don't know it.

    The state Board of Pardons and Paroles announced Wednesday that under a 1996 amendment to the Alabama constitution, inmates convicted of DUIs or drug possession alone never lose their voting rights - despite common belief that felons are prohibited from casting ballots.

    "Everybody thought anyone convicted of a felony lost the right to vote," said Cynthia Dillard, assistant director for the pardons and paroles board.

    Dillard said the parole board looked into the issue after hearing about a Pell City prosecutor trying to charge an inmate who attempted to vote in last November's elections. The board received a March 18 advisory opinion from Attorney General Troy King, who said only those felonies involving "moral turpitude" - meaning the crimes are inherently immoral - disqualify a convict from voting. -- Dateline Alabama

    I can see how a prosecutor might be confused about this. Amendment 579 (yep, that number is right) states, in part, "No person convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, or who is mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil and political rights or removal of disability." I suppose trying to find something like that among 742 amendments does get sort of confusing.

    April 17, 2005

    Wisconsin: In which district do the homeless voters live?

    The Journal Times Online reports: You can win but that doesn't mean you get the prize.

    Keith Fair won the election for 1st District alderman April 5, but when the new Racine City Council is seated on Tuesday, it seems no chair will be pulled out for the alderman-elect.

    It's because Alderman Jeff Coe, who lost the race 185-182, is challenging Fair's win in court. Under state law, Coe's challenge and any subsequent appeals can keep Fair from taking his seat for weeks.

    Coe's attorney, John Bjelajac, said he'll file papers to challenge the election in Racine County Circuit Court by Tuesday.

    Bjelajac said he will argue in court that 14 homeless people should not have voted in the 1st District in the election. He said he does not want to take away the right of the homeless to vote. Rather, he wonders if 14 homeless people who really don't live in the 1st District should be voting in a local election.

    If the 14 votes are discounted, it could make a difference. The election was decided by three votes.

    Where do the homeless live? The question, for Bjelajac, comes down to residency. The shelter at St. Paul Baptist Church, 1120 Grand Ave., is one of several sites that accept the homeless as part of the Racine-area REST program. The program has the homeless rotating among the sites, one for each day of the week. -- The Journal Times Online

    March 25, 2005

    Roundup on voter ID bills

    MALDEF has produced a chart of the bills pending in state legislatures regarding voter I.D. and proof of citizenship. You may download the file here.

    MALDEF's testimony on three of those bills is available

    Thanks to Nina Perales for providing these to me.

    March 19, 2005

    Washington State: felons thought they could vote

    The Seattle Times report: Of 99 felons who apparently voted illegally in King County in the last general election, just 10 showed up in person yesterday at a hearing where they could challenge the county's move to purge them from the voter rolls.

    And none of the 10 actually denied being a felon or presented evidence that voting rights had been restored. ...

    The hearing was held before Dean Logan, the director of the county's Office of Elections, Records and Licensing Services. Joly presented evidence that all of the 99 were registered voters, had felony convictions and had not had their civil rights restored.

    Under Washington law, felons can petition the court to have their right to vote restored after showing they have completed their sentences and paid all restitution and fines.

    Some of the 10 voters at the hearing clearly felt they were on trial again. Logan was seated at a dais and Joly, as the prosecutor, at a table in front of him.

    After taking a seat at a table on the opposite side of the room and being sworn in, each of the voters was provided with copies of the evidence against them and a pamphlet from the American Civil Liberties Union explaining how they could regain their right to vote. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Felons tell officials they thought they still could vote

    March 15, 2005

    Votes for Puerto Rico?

    Howard Bashman writes in his How Appealing blog: First Circuit panel to reconsider eligibility of Puerto Rico residents to vote for President and Vice-President of the United States: A reader emails:

    Igartua v. United States is a case in which the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico granted Puerto Rico electoral votes in U.S. presidential elections. The First Circuit, having overturned the granting of this relief in 2000 (Case No. 00-2083, available here), rejected it again in 2004 (case No. 04-2186; available here), over a dissent by Judge Torruella, who is from Puerto Rico and was formerly a District Judge there.

    A motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc was filed, which was pending without decision for an unusually long time. Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, the panel granted rehearing in the following order (from PACER):

    "ORDER entered by Judge Juan R. Torruella, Senior Judge Levin H. Campbell, and Judge Jeffrey R. Howard. The petition for panel rehearing is granted respecting the issues described below. The rehearing will be scheduled for Wednesday, May 4, 2005, at 3:00 p.m. in the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse. The government and petitioners shall file briefs, not to exceed 20 pages, no later than 30 days from the issuance of this order, addressing the following issues: 1. the international legal obligations of the United States with respect to the eligibility of Puerto Rico residents to vote for President and Vice-President of the United States pursuant to international agreements, including (1) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217 A (III), U.N. Doc. A/810 (1948); (2) the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States, 28th Spec. Sess., OAS Doc. OEA/Ser.P/AG/RES.1 (XXVIII-E/01) (OAS General Assembly) (Sept. 11, 2001); and (3) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, opened for signature Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171; 2. the availability of declaratory judgment concerning the government's compliance with said obligations, see 28 U.S.C. 2201. Subject to the provisions of Fed. R. App. P. 29, the court would also invite the submission of amicus curiae briefs not to exceed 20 pages addressing the above matters."

    I thank my reader for sending along news of this quite interesting and potentially very important development. -- How Appealing

    Go to How Appealling to get the links.

    March 9, 2005

    Washington State: bill would check citizenship of voter registrants

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Voter records would be randomly investigated and election officials would have to check on the citizenship of each new applicant under Republican-sponsored amendments that passed the state Senate on Monday as part of an election reform-driven voter registration bill.

    Republicans have introduced a flurry of amendments on a series of election reform bills that started to hit the floor Friday, but Monday was the first day the GOP had any success on the issue in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

    The bill to enhance voter registration record-keeping passed on a 49-0 vote. Republican amendments allow Department of Licensing agents to ask voter registration applicants if they are U.S. citizens; allow the secretary of state or a county auditor to check the citizenship of new applicants with federal immigration officials; allow county election officials to randomly investigate the record of all registered voters and to make corrections when a voter has died or if their residence has changed; and provide a box on the return envelope of absentee ballots that voters can check to indicate they are members of the armed forces. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Senate passes bill that would allow random checks of voter records, check of citizenship

    March 5, 2005

    Washington State: GOP accuses 1135 of illegal voting

    The Spokesman-Review reports: Jon Anson was just "trying to do the right thing" when he cast a ballot in November. Now he finds himself falsely accused by the state Republican Party of voting illegally.

    He didn't, and he has the documentation to prove it.

    Anson, a Spokane resident, is on a list of names the state GOP released late Thursday of more than 1,100 felons the political party claims shouldn't have voted because they haven't had their voting rights restored. The list is alphabetized by county, so Anson is on the top of the list for Spokane, and on Friday, reporters started showing up at his door on the lower South Hill, questioning him about voting. ...

    The list is the latest twist in the ongoing challenge of Democrat Christine Gregoire's election as governor. After she finished the hand recount just 129 votes ahead of Republican Dino Rossi, the GOP challenged the election results. Since shortly after the challenge was filed, Republicans have contended that dozens, then hundreds, and now more than 1,100 felons voted illegally, more than enough to call Gregoire's margin of victory into question and prompt a new election.

    On Thursday, party officials said there were likely "hundreds if not thousands of other felons who cast illegal ballots in November." But they released to the state Democratic Party and the news media the 1,135 names "of which we are most certain." -- Some voters surprised to be on list of felons

    February 15, 2005

    New Sentencing Project report on voting rights restoration

    The Sentencing Project has a new report, Barred for Life: Voting Rights Restoration in Permanent Disenfranchisement States, that examines the rights restoration process in the 14 states in which disenfranchisement may last for a lifetime. The study finds that in 11 of these states, less than 3% of disenfranchised persons have had their rights restored in recent years. Here's what it says about Alabama:

    Estimated Number of Disenfranchised Ex-Felons: 148,830

    Felony Disenfranchisement Laws and the Process of Restoration

    Alabama disenfranchises all people who are convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude,” a list which includes all felonies. In 2003, the state passed legislation to streamline the process of restoring voting rights. Individuals seeking to regain their right to vote can now apply for a Certificate of Eligibility to Register to Vote from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board is obligated to issue a certificate within 45 days if all requirements are satisfied.

    The process is generally only available to persons convicted of non-violent offenses. Persons with a conviction for a violent offense and certain other offenses are required to apply for a pardon from the Board of Pardons and Parole.

    Reenfranchisement Activity — Restorations: 1,697 (estimated, 2004)

    As of September 2004, 1,697 persons had received their Certificate of Eligibility, and an additional 5,000 requests were still pending.4 These figures are the result of the law change in 2003 and a vigorous advocacy campaign by community organizations to inform eligible people of the rights restoration process. State officials have reported that they have insufficient staff to handle the volume of applications and that the 45-day time period may not always be met.

    February 3, 2005

    New York: amicus brief in 2nd Circuit on felon disfranchisement case

    From the National Voting Rigths Institute site: A combination of policies regarding the census, political redistricting and felon disenfranchisement are discriminating against racial minorities in New York state. The state denies incarcerated prisoners the right to vote, yet counts prisoners as residents of prisons where they are incarcerated when drawing its state legislative districts. This practice dilutes minority voting strength by enhancing the voting power of upstate rural prison districts, at the expense of the urban minority communities where most prisoners retain their legal residence.

    NVRI, together with the Prison Policy Initiative, describes the racially discriminatory impact of this practice in an amicus brief filed January 28, 2005 in Muntaqim v. Coombe, a case challenging New York's prisoner disenfranchisement laws under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Second Circuit has granted an unusual en banc review of the case.

    Our brief draws on a seminal report by Peter Wagner, Assistant Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, entitled Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in New York (April 2002). The brief explains how New York's policy of crediting prison towns with the presence of disenfranchised prisoners for purposes of redistricting enhances the voting strength of white communities that host prisons while diluting the representation afforded to urban communities of color. Representatives of these rural upstate districts make little pretense of treating prisoners as actual constituents. -- National Voting Rights Institute

    The brief can be downloaded here.

    February 1, 2005

    Canada: bill proposes lowering voting age to 16

    CP reports: A bill that would lower the voting age to 16 got a boost in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

    Twenty 20 MPs from all parties jointly seconded the private member's bill by Ontario Liberal Mark Holland. That's the maximum number of seconders allowed and some had to be refused, said Holland, who first introduced the bill in November. Currently, only people aged 18 and older may vote in a federal election. Though the new bill would give 16-and 17-year-olds the vote, the minimum age for a candidate would remain at 18.

    Part of the push to lower the age is an attempt to renew flagging interest in the electoral process.

    On a website devoted to the cause, proponents say there's disillusion with the political system among the 2.6 million Canadians 18 to 24 years old, who feel that politicians ignore youth. -- | Top Stories | Politics | Move to lower voting age to 16 gets push in House of Commons

    January 26, 2005

    DC: 2 plans to give voting rights to the District

    AP reports: D.C.'s congressional delegate plans to introduce her bill aimed at getting full voting rights for city residents. ...

    Northern Virginia Congressman Tom Davis has a separate plan which would give D.C. a House vote in exchange for adding another congressional seat in Utah. The idea is heavily Republican Utah would balance out overwhelmingly Democratic D.C. --

    Cherokee Nation: Freedmen sue to get voting rights, Nation seeks dismissal

    The Muskogee Phoenxi reports: The Cherokee Nation is seeking dismissal of a lawsuit that could affect the tribe's 2003 election, claiming Cherokee Freedmen held "secret" meetings with the government concerning the suit.

    Motions to intervene and to dismiss were filed by the Cherokee Nation in a federal lawsuit by five Cherokee Freedmen against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Gail Norton, department secretary, over the department's recognition of the Cherokee Nation's election of tribal officials in 2003. ...

    The original suit claims Freedmen were excluded from the election and that the department, which oversees the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, failed to protect voting rights of the Freedmen.

    If the plaintiffs win the case, it would give Freedmen voting rights in the Cherokee Nation, and would invalidate the election, reverting the Cherokee Nation government back to the elected officials and constitution prior to the 2003 election. ...

    # In 1893, the U.S. government established the Dawes Commission for the purpose of creating authoritative membership rolls for Native American tribes in Oklahoma. In 1898 the Dawes Commission began enrolling the black Cherokees and blacks adopted into the tribe on a "Freedmen Roll," other Cherokees were enrolled on a separate "Blood Roll."

    Freedmen had voting rights in the Cherokee Nation up until 1983, when the tribal council made it mandatory to have a degree of Indian blood card to be tribal members. Since the Freedmen Roll did not contain blood quantum as the Blood Rolls did, many black Cherokees were no longer considered tribal members. -- Cherokee Nation seeks to scuttle Freedmen lawsuit -

    January 19, 2005

    Florida: Bush proposes $1.5 million to reduce clemency backlog

    The Miami Herald reports: Gov. Jeb Bush made an ambitious pitch Tuesday to overhaul Florida's beleaguered clemency system, recommending the state hire 40 people to help reduce the backlog of felons waiting to have their civil rights restored.

    The $1.5 million proposal was part of Bush's 2005-2006 budget request, announced in Tallahassee on Tuesday. It is the most money Bush has ever recommended for the clemency system, run by the Florida Parole Commission.

    If approved by the Legislature, the Parole Commission's budget would increase almost 30 percent to $12.1 million when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

    Much of the new money is earmarked for the restoration of civil rights. -- | 01/19/2005 | Bush pitches fix for clemency system

    Arizona: proposition 200 attacked

    AP reports: Opponents of Arizona's new immigration law -- stymied in their initial court challenges -- are taking aim at the law's election mandates, claiming they'll virtually eliminate voter registration drives and place too many obstacles in front of minority voters.

    A civil rights group and Democratic legislators have separately asked the Justice Department to block the law, which was designed to deny some public benefits to illegal immigrants. Voters approved the measure November 2. ...

    The move comes after the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and other opponents unsuccessfully challenged non-election provisions of the new law.

    The election provisions include requiring a person to produce a copy of a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when registering to vote or when reregistering in another county. Also, a voter would have to show identification before voting at a polling place. -- - Arizona immigration law challenged - Jan 19, 2005

    January 3, 2005

    Israel: Palestinian prisoners ask for the right to vote in the presidential election

    The Jerusalem Post reports: The minister in charge of Palestinian prisoners for the Palestinian Authority and two Palestinian leaders at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday to allow the 8,000 Palestinians being held in Israel and the administered territories to vote in next week's Palestinian presidential election.

    The petitioners, PA minister Hisham Abdel Rizak and prison leaders Otion Musalah and Ahmed Kamil, are represented by human rights attorney Zvi Rish.

    There are an estimated 8,000 Palestinian prisoners currently being held by Israeli security forces. ...

    The petitioners accused the government of violating Israeli and international law by preventing the prisoners from exercising their basic right to vote. Rish wrote that Israel allowed its own imprisoned citizens to vote in national elections and since it was allegedly unlawfully holding Palestinians in prisons located in Israel, it was responsible for granting them the same rights it granted its own prisoners. -- Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

    December 9, 2004

    Florida: relaxed rules on restoration of ex-felon voting rights

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: Thousands of ex-felons will find it easier to get their civil rights restored under rule changes unanimously agreed to today by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet.

    Florida is one of only seven states where former prisoners do not automatically get clemency -- including the right to vote -- when they leave prison.

    Although there are no plans in the works to allow automatic restoration of rights, the rule changes adopted by the Board of Executive Clemency will ease the process, especially for those who have remained crime free after leaving prison. ...

    Today's action would allow those convicted of non-violent crimes to apply for clemency without a board hearing if they have been crime-free for five years. Those convicted of violent felonies could have their rights restored after 15 years if they remain crime-free. ...

    Randy Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, successfully sued the state for failing to help felons apply for a restoration of their civil rights upon completion of their sentences. Today, he called the rule changes "a complete joke.''

    "People need to have their civil rights restored immediately after prison so they can get decent jobs, earn a living, support their families and pay taxes,'' Berg said. "If they can't, it's almost a self-fulfilling prophesy: They'll be forced to resort to crime again."

    He and other advocates said it's high time for the state to revert to the clemency system adopted by former Gov. Reubin Askew.

    Under the Askew Administration, restoration was automatic. When convicted felons completed their sentences, their civil rights were restored -- a policy with which the American Correctional Association agrees. --

    November 20, 2004

    Legal opinion: Congress has power to grant DC representation in Congress

    The Washington Post reports: A former senior Justice Department official in the Bush administration has concluded that a constitutional amendment is not needed to grant the District voting representation in the House.

    The 25-page opinion by Viet D. Dinh, a former assistant U.S. attorney general, was commissioned by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) as part of his effort to grant the District a vote in the House. ...

    The Davis bill would temporarily expand the House to 437 seats by adding one member from the District and another member from Utah, which has three. The House would revert to 435 after reapportionment for the 2012 election; the District would retain its seat. ...

    Opponents have said the Constitution explicitly reserves congressional representation to the states. A 1978 proposed amendment to give the District a vote in the House and two votes in the Senate fell far short of ratification.

    Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown University, concluded that the Constitution grants Congress "ample power" under the so-called District clause to legislate representation for citizens within its borders. Dinh noted that Congress allowed exactly that between 1790 and 1800, when Virginia and Maryland ceded the territory that became the District and when the federal government formally created the capital. -- Opinion Backs Davis's Effort To Grant D.C. Vote in House (

    November 8, 2004

    Supreme Court lets the ex-felon voting issue simmer a while longer

    The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court today allowed several current and former prisoners in Washington State to challenge a law there stripping them of their right to vote, a move that could have repercussions in a number of other states.

    The justices left intact a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over seven Western states and held that the convicts were at least entitled to trials in federal district courts to contest their loss of voting rights.

    The Supreme Court tacitly upheld that position today, with potential implications for prisoners in some of the 47 states besides Washington that prohibit convicts from voting while behind bars. Only Maine and Vermont do not bar imprisoned felons from voting, and some convicts in the other states will almost certainly be encouraged to sue, now that Washington prisoners can do so.

    But prisoners in New York, Vermont and Connecticut - which are under the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit - will not be among those allowed to file suit. At the same time as they refused to take the appeal of the Ninth Circuit ruling today, the justices also let stand an opposite ruling in a similar case from New York City. -- The New York Times > Washington > Justices Let Prisoners Sue to Regain Right to Vote

    November 7, 2004

    Keillor proposes denial of voting rights to those with citizenship in heaven

    Garrison Keillor, as reported in the Chicago Maroon: "I am a Democrat --it's no secret. I am a museum-quality Democrat," Keillor said. "Last night I spent my time crouched in a fetal position, rolling around and moaning in the dark."

    Not one to shy away from speaking his mind, Keillor proposed a solution to what he deemed a fundamental problem with U.S. elections. "I'm trying to organize support for a constitutional amendment to deny voting rights to born-again Christians," Keillor smirked. "I feel if your citizenship is in Heaven -- like a born again Christian's is -- you should give up your citizenship. Sorry, but this is my new cause. If born again Christians are allowed to vote in this country, then why not Canadians?" -- NPR star Keillor tells of home life on a prairie

    November 5, 2004

    New York -- guess who claims fraudulent voters were bussed in?

    The New York Times reports: Republican Party officials in Westchester County accused the Democratic Party yesterday of busing New York City residents to the polls in Westchester County on Election Day and encouraging them to vote fraudulently in a tight State Senate race.

    Democratic Party officials have denied the charges and have accused the Republicans of trying to further complicate the resolution of the race between Senator Nicholas A. Spano, a Republican who is seeking a 10th term, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democratic county legislator.

    Mr. Spano was leading Ms. Stewart-Cousins, 54,120 to 52,446, with 417 of the 418 districts counted, election officials said last night. All absentee and other paper ballots needed to be counted as well. Democrats had won a court order impounding the ballots after several voters complained of irregularities.

    According to a police report that was distributed by Republican Party officials yesterday, Robert Mujica, a volunteer poll watcher for the party in Yonkers, told the police that a charter bus showed up at a polling station on Tuesday and dropped off several people who tried to vote without identification showing a Yonkers address. -- The New York Times > New York Region > Fraudulent Voters Bused In, Westchester Republicans Say **

    Supreme Court conference today considers felon disfranchisement

    Legal Times reports: The Supreme Court may soon decide to consider the legality of policies in effect in 48 states that disenfranchise convicted felons.

    Two of the cases set for discussion at the Court's private conference today ask the Court to determine whether felon disenfranchisement laws violate §2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That provision bars the imposition of any requirement that results in denial of the right to vote "on account of race or color." The Court will also meet in conference on Nov. 12.

    Civil rights groups cite statistics showing that more than 40 percent of the roughly 5 million people who cannot vote because of past convictions are black, and more than half are of color. Frank Askin, general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, describes felon disenfranchisement laws, which are most severe in the South, as "the last vestige of slavery in our country."

    All states except Maine and Vermont block convicted felons from voting, although some have provisions that allow felons to regain voting privileges under certain circumstances. The Court in the 1974 case Richardson v. Ramirez said disenfranchisement laws could not be challenged under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, so more recent challenges have been brought under the Voting Rights Act.

    The cases before the Court are Locke v. Farrakhan, No. 03-1597, from Washington state, and Muntaqim v. Coombe, No. 04-175, from New York. -- - Article

    November 2, 2004

    A debate on ex-felon voting

    The Legal Affairs Debate Club reports on the current debate: This Tuesday, Americans go to the polls, but over four million prisoners, parolees, and ex-convicts don't have that option, even by absentee ballot. Forty-eight states prohibit their prisoners from voting--Vermont and Maine are the exceptions--and seven terminate the voting rights of ex-felons for life.

    After the 2000 election, several states moved to curtail these restrictions. Some, like Delaware, shortened how long prisoners could not vote after their release. Others, like Florida, are immersed in legal battles over the topic.

    By committing a felony, does someone give up his right to a ballot, or should ex-felons be allowed to vote?

    Roger Clegg is general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. Marc Mauer is Assistant Director of The Sentencing Project. -- Legal Affairs Debate Club - Should Ex-Felons be Allowed to Vote?

    "And the dead shall rise"

    Aristotle International announces: This year Halloween comes just two days before the fiercely contested election which in many jurisdictions will feature touch screen voting and no paper trail -- perfect for ghosts, goblins and ghouls. And oddly appropriate because in nearly all states there are many thousands of voters listed as eligible and poised to cast their ballots but who are in fact -- dead. Campaigns that acquired voter files early in the election year should be aware that they will need a seance to reach some voters.

    This year in the spirit of an especially highly charged Halloween, Aristotle's ghost busters have put the "Deadwood Game" online. At the website ( a visitor can go to the upper tab, "Voter and Contributor Lists", click on "Deadwood" to select a state, then try to correctly guess the percent of the state's voters who have joined the choir invisible, passed to the great beyond, are gone to meet their Maker, mingling with the moles: in a word, Kaput. ...

    Using lists from the US government and US Postal Service, we've "undertaken" to identify and remove deceased voters and those who have moved.

    We've also updated listed phone numbers for every living voter in your district. -- They're Back! Ballot Box Ghouls Haunt 2004 Election

    October 31, 2004

    Manatee County elections supervisor will not honor most challenges based on felon list

    The Bradenton Herald reports: The general election Tuesday is shaping up in Manatee County and across Florida unlike any other in the aftermath of the 2000 disputed presidential election, when the outcome was challenged in election offices and courts for 36 days before Florida decided the presidency.

    "We're going to have some problems at the polls," Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said Friday. "I'm not naive enough to think we're not." ...

    Donna Hayes, chairwoman of the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee, said individual voters may become upset if their eligibility to vote is challenged Tuesday, but that is part of the process of having a fair election. ...

    Hayes said Republican poll watchers in Manatee County will join others across Florida in challenging the eligibility of convicted felons based on a list prepared by the Republican Party of Florida, which was based on a list of more than 48,000 felons initially prepared by the Florida Division of Elections. The state elections agency scrapped its list after The Miami Herald discovered more than 2,000 mistakes.

    Sweat said any challenge of any voter being a convicted felon will require more proof than the state's former list or a similar list of names - unless the voter admits he or she is a felon who has not had civil rights restored.

    "If they challenge somebody and that is all they've got, they don't have a prayer," Sweat said. "I'm not going to honor that list. Unless the voter admits it, that is the only way that list will be valid at all." -- Manatee polls prepare for election dilemmas (Bradenton Herald)

    October 20, 2004

    Purging practices of several states

    From a new study by the ACLU, Demos, and the Right to Vote Coalition: This survey reflects our research of state law as supplemented by conversations with representatives from each state’s chief elections agency and two county election agencies. Through our research and conversations, we sought to answer the following questions: (1) how does the state compile its felon purge list?, (2) how do the state’s elections officials “match” people with felony convictions against individuals listed on their voter registration list before purging them from the rolls?, and (3) does the state notify the individuals deemed “matched” that they will be or have been purged? ...

    In all three issue areas examined, we found inconsistent practices both across and within states, even in states with identical disfranchisement laws. We offer detailed recommendations for remedying these inconsistencies in the last section of this report, and attach detailed state-by-state purge fact sheets to the end of this report. -- Purged! How a patchwork of flawed and inconsistent voting systems could deprive millions of Americans of the right to vote

    Thanks to beSpacific for the link.

    Virginia GOP legislator objects to Governor's re-enfranchising felons

    AP reports: With [Virginia] Gov. Mark R. Warner restoring the voting rights of felons at an unprecedented pace, a Republican lawmaker is demanding an explanation and calling for a legislative review.

    Since Warner took office in January 2002, he has given the vote back to 1,892 Virginia felons who have served their prison time and completed probation. Virginia is one of the most restrictive states for recover the voting rights that are lost upon a felony conviction.

    In a tersely worded letter to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office, Del. Brad Marrs, R-Chesterfield, asked for copies of the files of all applications Warner has approved. The secretary's office reviews the applications and sends them to the governor's office.

    Marrs asked the office to confirm a news report that Warner had approved 65 reinstatements in the final week of September, "a rate of 13 per business day or over 1{ per hour." -- GOP delegate questions Warner restoring vote to 1,892 felons(AP via

    Damn it, the process is supposed to be cumbersome. Anybody speeding it up must be up to something. [That's a paraphrase.]

    September 22, 2004

    Studies find felon disfranchisement has racial impact

    The New York Times reports: As many as one of every seven black men in Atlanta who have been convicted of a felony, and one of every four in Providence, R.I., cannot vote in this year's election, according to a pair of studies released yesterday.

    The studies, the first to look at felon disenfranchisement laws' effect on voting in individual cities, add to a growing body of evidence that those laws have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans because the percentage of black men sentenced to prison is much larger than their share of the general population.

    The study in Atlanta concluded that two-thirds of the gap in voter registration between black males and other ethnic and gender groups was attributable to Georgia's felon disenfranchisement law.

    "We have the conventional wisdom that African-American males register to vote at lower rates because of political apathy," said the study's author, Ryan King of the Sentencing Project, a research and prisoners' rights group based in Washington. But the new data clearly indicate that "their registration is artificially suppressed by the disproportionate effect of their disenfranchisement." -- 2 Studies Find Laws on Felons Forbid Many Black Men to Vote **

    The Sentencing Project's Atlanta report is here.

    August 29, 2004

    50 Asian-American voters challenged in South Alabama city election

    AP reports: About 50 challenged ballots in a Bayou La Batre [Alabama] City Council contest have stirred discrimination concerns because they were all demanded from Asian-American voters.

    Opponents of council candidate Phuong Tan Huynh challenged the ballots of nearly 50 voters in Tuesday's city election.

    The challenges, which are permitted under state law, included complaints that the voters weren't U.S. citizens or city residents or that they had felony convictions. Challenged voters are required to complete a paper ballot and a registered voter must vouch for their ballot.

    Jackie Ladnier faces Huynh in the Sept. 14 runoff for Place 5 on the City Council. ...

    [Probate Judge Don] Davis said it's conceivable that challenges could be used to harass voters. "Of course, you'd hope people wouldn't do that," he said.

    By all accounts, the voters were challenged to their faces as they walked into the polling place at the Bayou La Batre Community Center.

    Being publicly confronted on their first trip to the voting booth visibly upset many of those who were challenged. Until this year, Asians here have seemed reluctant to step into local politics, preferring to live as a self-contained community for the most part. -- Challenged Asian ballots in council race stir discrimination concern (AP via

    August 8, 2004

    Non-citizens want the right to vote for DC city council

    The New York Times reports: For months, the would-be revolutionaries [in Washington DC] plotted strategy and lobbied local politicians here with the age-old plea, "No taxation without representation!" Last month, some of the unlikely insurgents - Ethiopian-born restaurateurs, travel agents and real estate developers in sober business suits - declared that victory finally seemed within reach.

    Five City Council members announced their support for a bill that would allow thousands of immigrants to vote in local elections here, placing the nation's capital among a handful of cities across the country in the forefront of efforts to offer voting rights to noncitizens.

    "It will happen,'' said Tamrat Medhin, a civic activist from Ethiopia who lives here. "Don't you believe that if people are working in the community and paying taxes, don't you agree that they deserve the opportunity to vote?''

    Calling for "democracy for all," immigrants are increasingly pressing for the right to vote in municipal elections. In Washington, the proposed bill, introduced in July, would allow permanent residents to vote for the mayor and members of the school board and City Council. -- > Washington > Immigrants Raise Call for Right to Be Voters (New York Times)

    July 26, 2004

    D.C. Democrats re-enact the Tea Party

    Reuters reports: Washington Democrats reenacted the "Boston Tea Party" protest during the Democratic convention on Monday to make their case for a vote in Congress for the nation's capital.

    Like their colonial forebears in 1773 who pitched tea into Boston's harbor rather than pay taxes to Britain, advocates of voting rights in Washington complain of "taxation without representation" -- a slogan emblazoned on tens of thousands of city license plates.

    Washington's nonvoting delegate in Congress, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe led the "Second Boston Tea Party" at the Charles River on the opening day of the Democratic convention in the New England city.

    This year, Democrats plan to drop a plank from their national party platforms of previous years seeking statehood for Washington. Instead, the party is expected to limit the call to a vote in Congress for the city. -- U.S. Capital Makes Vote-Rights Case at Convention (

    July 22, 2004

    Florida Secretary of State asks for review of entire voter database

    AP reports: Florida's top elections official Thursday ordered a review of the state's voter database after a list used by county officials to remove felons from voting rolls came under heavy criticism.

    Secretary of State Glenda Hood acknowledged the list of 48,000 potential felons was flawed and scrapped it: It contained thousands of people who are eligible to vote, such as people who had their charges reduced, and was flawed by a technical glitch that excluded many possible Hispanic felons.

    Hood said she now wants her inspector general to review how the overall database was put together to ensure there are no other problems. -- Reviewed Ordered of Fla. Voting Database (AP via Miami Herald)

    July 20, 2004

    Florida election officials knew of the glitch in felon purge list in 1998

    AP reports: State election officials knew since at least 1998 that a recently scrapped felons list designed to clear convicted felons from voter rolls would have a glitch and exclude Hispanics, according to a company that helped create the list.

    Private company DBT helped build the felons list for the 2000 election. DBT, which was later bought by ChoicePoint, discussed the difficulties involving Hispanic felons with experts in the secretary of state's office in late 1997 or early 1998, ChoicePoint spokesman Chuck Jones said Monday.

    ChoicePoint and state officials analyzed the data together and realized that using race would create an inaccurate list because of the problems with Hispanic or Latinos, he said.

    "We determined jointly that it was not reliable," Jones told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a story in Tuesday's editions. -- State Knew Of Problems With Felons List Since 1998 (AP via

    July 18, 2004

    ABA President calls for restoration of ex-felons' voting rights

    Dennis Archer, ABA President, writes in the Miami Herald: It is time for Florida to do away with laws that permanently bar people with convictions from participating in our democratic process.

    One of the most important privileges we enjoy in America is our right to vote. When we were students, we all learned that, as citizens of a representative democracy, our vote is our voice. Florida's on-going efforts to purge ''suspected felons'' from state voter rolls threatens to silence not only those that have served time in prison, but also thousands of eligible voters with no criminal records -- the vast majority of whom appear to be African Americans.

    As President Bush said in his 2004 State of the Union address, ''America is the land of the second chance.'' In this country, we have a deep appreciation of the idea that everyone deserves a chance at redemption. It is a central theme of our collective literary, spiritual, political and cultural traditions. It is who we are, and a big part of the reason that 80 percent of the American public favors restoring people's right to vote at some point after they get out of prison.

    Most states now restore voting rights automatically upon completion of sentence, and have reported no administrative or other problems as a result. In contrast, Florida's discredited exclusionary system has proven a continuing drain on state resources. The federal court of appeals has allowed a challenge to Florida's felony disenfranchisement law under the Voting Rights Act. The governor's cumbersome clemency board process moves at a snail's pace in handling the hundreds of requests for restoration of rights it receives each year. And Florida prison officials have dragged their feet in responding to a court order directing them to help exoffenders regain their rights. -- | 07/18/2004 | ABA president: Restore vote to all ex-felons

    July 11, 2004

    Did Florida drop the felon purge list because of this letter?

    Brennan Center press release, 8 July: A letter sent today to Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood details numerous legal violations in connection with the State's identification of over 47,000 "potential felons" and instructions to county election officials to take steps to purge these voters from the rolls. A previous study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, one of the legal groups responsible for the letter, found that the purge list likely includes thousands of people who are eligible to vote because the State restored their voting rights, after they served their sentences.

    Said senior attorney Monique Dixon of the Advancement Project, "With this list, Florida makes voters jump through hoops to exercise the most basic right of American citizenship."

    "Florida officials apparently are ready to sacrifice thousands of eligible voters' rights to keep "potential felons" away from the polls," says Jessie Allen co-counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

    In addition to other issues, the letter asserts that State election officials violated federal and state law by:

    Distributing the inaccurate potential felon purge list to county election supervisors accompanied by misleading information about the list's accuracy;

    Instructing the supervisors to notify those on the purge list that they will be removed from the voter rolls if they fail to respond; and

    Failing to correct those instructions after their illegality was specifically pointed out. -- Brennan Center for Justice - Press Release

    The press release has a link to the text of the letter (which will reward careful readers with lots of knowledge about the NVRA and Florida law). Thanks to Deborah Goldberg for link.

    Florida scraps the felon purge list

    AP reports: Florida elections officials said Saturday that they would not use a disputed list that was intended to keep felons from voting, acknowledging a flaw that could have allowed Hispanic felons to cast ballots in November.

    The problem could have been significant in Florida, which President Bush won by just 537 votes in 2000. The state has a sizable Cuban population, and Hispanics in Florida have tended to vote Republican more than Hispanics nationally. The list had about 28,000 Democrats and around 9,500 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.

    Gov. Jeb Bush said that not including Hispanic felons on the list "was an oversight and a mistake." He added, "We accept responsibility, and that's why we're pulling it back."

    Governor Bush said the mistake occurred because two databases that were merged to form the disputed list were incompatible.

    When voters register in Florida, they can identify themselves as Hispanic. But the felons database has no Hispanic category, which excluded many people from the list.

    Secretary of State Glenda Hood said elections supervisors would find other ways to ensure that felons were removed from the rolls. -- Florida Won't Use a Flawed Felon List (AP via New York Times)

    July 10, 2004

    The background on Florida's decision

    Florida's decision "to err on the side of the voter" was based in part on a letter from the ACLU and Florida Justice Institute. The state's response is here.

    Thanks to Neil Bradley for sending the letters.

    July 9, 2004

    almost no Hispanics on Florida's purge list

    Tom Lyons writes in the Herald Tribune: About 11 percent of Florida's prison population is Hispanic. So, what percentage of the voter purge list is Hispanic?

    Rounded off to the nearest percentage point, it is: zero.

    No kidding. Of 47,763 people on the list, only a smattering are Hispanic. They add up to about a tenth of a percent.

    That adamantly shouts that, at best, a huge mistake was made. Hispanics aren't just under-represented, or even amazingly under-represented. Statistically, they are gone.

    I can't blame anyone who thinks this was engineered purposely. Florida's Hispanic voters traditionally tend to vote Republican in presidential elections, almost as reliably as black voters tend to support Democrats. A purge list with the expected percentage of black felons that omits almost all Hispanic felons is highly suspect. -- More Fla. democracy: Hispanic felons get to vote, and Jeb stays mum (

    Thanks to Gerry Hebert for the link.

    July 8, 2004

    Florida decides "to err on the side of the voter"

    AP reports: The Florida Division of Elections has done an about-face and decided it will allow voting by almost 2,500 former felons whose restored voting rights had been threatened with revocation.

    The agency initially said state law required that former felons be deleted from the voter rolls because they had registered to vote before they were granted clemency. Florida is one of seven states that do not automatically restore felons' civil rights after they finish their prison sentences.

    Secretary of State Glenda Hood backtracked on the issue Wednesday.

    "It goes without saying that our guiding principle throughout this process will be to err on the side of the voter," Hood said in a statement. -- Florida reverses, says it won't strip 2,500 ex-felons of voting rights (AP via

    July 4, 2004

    Florida ex-felons must re-register

    More than 1,600 Florida felons whose right to vote was legally restored remain on a state list of potentially ineligible voters because they have yet to re-register to vote, a hurdle that critics say is sure to create confusion as the national election looms.

    State officials have directed county election supervisors to make each of the voters -- some of whom have been voting legally for decades -- register again before the November presidential election.

    The move is drawing fire from several fronts -- from local election supervisors forced to deal with the bureaucratic morass, from black politicians who believe that the list unfairly targets minorities, and from voting rights activists who say it skirts the spirit of open voting.

    ''It's a throwback to a very ugly period in American history -- a time when state officials in the deep South threw up irrelevant stumbling blocks to keep black people from voting,'' said Randall Marshall, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. -- Felon voting rights face a new hurdle (Miami Herald)

    Florida "purge list" angering Dems

    As thousands of Floridians learn that a state list could wrongly bar them from voting, Democrats have found a rallying point for the November elections and proof, they say, of long-held suspicions that Gov. Jeb Bush's elections machinery is rigged against them.

    More than 2,100 people, many of them black Democrats, remain on the list of potentially ineligible ex-con voters despite winning clemency - and the right to vote - after their crimes, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

    Democrats and activists call it a "purge list" - a phrase that deeply irks the governor.

    That phrase, and the sinister plot it suggests, is rapidly becoming an article of faith among some Democrats, already fired up by the sensational "Fahrenheit 9/11" conspiracy film that begins with Florida's voting woes four years ago. -- Questions over felon 'purge list' threaten Florida governor (KRT Wire via

    July 3, 2004

    Florida: felon list is just a starting point

    State elections officials Friday angrily defended the integrity of their list of nearly 48,000 "potential felons" who could be purged from the voting rolls amid mounting evidence that thousands of names were put on the list by mistake.

    And elections supervisors throughout the state -- many of whom reported being inundated with calls from concerned voters -- said they were moving carefully to check out every name on the list. Many said they didn't expect to finish before the August primaries or even the November general election.

    "It's easier for a judge to tell me somebody shouldn't have voted than it is for the judge to say I should have let so-and-so vote," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles. "That's why the supervisors are going to go very slow in doing their research."

    A computer analysis by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel that compared the names on the Elections Division list with a list of more than 180,000 names of convicted felons who have had their voting rights restored showed more than 2,000 names appearing on both lists. Of those, more than 350 were from the seven-county Central Florida area. -- State officials defend list of felon voters (

    July 1, 2004

    CNN reports on its suit against Florida on felon purge lists

    A state court judge in Florida ordered Thursday that the board of elections immediately release a list of nearly 50,000 suspected felons to CNN and other news organizations that last month sued the state for access to copies of the list.

    The list is used to determine who will be eligible to vote in November's presidential election in the state.

    In a statement issued shortly after the ruling was announced, Secretary of State Glenda Hood accepted the ruling as final.

    "Now that the court has ruled that statute to be unconstitutional, we will make these records accessible to all interested parties," she said. -- Judge rules for media on Florida voter list (

    CNN wins right to copy felon purge list

    Neil Bradley has sent the Flordia state trial court opinion in CNN v. Florida Dept. of State holding that the state must allow copying of list of suspected felons compiled for voting purge effort. The opinion is here.

    June 27, 2004

    Incentives for registering voters

    Cash! Concerts! Movies! All could be yours, free, for a little good old-fashioned, shoe-leather work of signing up voters in Missouri. ...

    But consider these examples in the basic of battles for votes:

    _ The Missouri Republican Party, perhaps for the first time, is offering a $3 bounty to local political groups for each new voter they successfully register. The same incentive applies to re-registering voters who have moved into different cities or counties.

    State party chairwoman Ann Wagner announced the new policy to hundreds of party activists gathered earlier this month for the state Republican convention. Republicans have a goal of registering 34,000 voters for the November elections.

    _ The Democratic leaning group America Coming Together, which is campaigning against President Bush, is sending paid canvassers door-to-door in St. Louis and Kansas City to register voters. The group plans to begin awarding small prizes, such as concert or movie tickets, to individuals who collect the most voter registration cards each week, said spokeswoman Sara Howard.

    _ The Kansas City chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which works primarily with inner-city residents, gives its paid staffers a quota of 20 voter registrations during a five-hour period and pays a bonus of $1.50 per registration for each voter above that, said Andrew Ginsberg, ACORN's head organizer in Kansas City. -- Political groups using incentives to encourage voter registration (AP via

    June 21, 2004

    San Francisco initiative proposes voting rights for non-citizens in school elections

    In a push to get more immigrants involved in their children's education, San Francisco officials are considering asking voters in November to give parents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in school board elections.

    Under the proposed ballot initiative, even illegal immigrants would be able to vote, so long as they are parents with kids in public schools.

    If the effort succeeds, San Francisco would become the first city in California to join a growing number of cities across the country that have adopted similar laws in recent years.

    The controversial idea is already fueling charges from critics who say allowing non-citizens to vote devalues citizenship. But immigrant advocates and some voting-rights experts believe it's only a matter of time before the state comes to grips with its new demographic reality: Almost one-fifth of all voting-age Californians are non-citizens. -- San Francisco considers school board voting rights for non-citizens (KRT Wire via Biloxi Sun Herald)

    June 19, 2004

    Florida restores voting rights to 22,000

    About 22,000 ex-felons [in Florida] are now eligible to head to the polls in November.

    Thursday Gov. Jeb Bush restored their voting rights, as well as their rights to serve on juries and take a job with state licensed firms. ...

    Bush announced Thursday that state officials completed a reviewthis week of 125,000 cases included in a lawsuit filed against thestate on behalf of felons released from prison between 1992 and2001.

    About 22,000 of them were found to be eligible to have theirrights automatically restored. Of those, about 11,000 have alreadyregained their privileges.

    Of the remaining 103,000, about half likely will be able to gettheir rights restored if they go through a hearing process,although it's not clear how many will seek to do so.

    Many of the remaining 50,000 or so won't be eligible to havetheir rights restored for a variety of reasons. -- Bush Restores Ex-Felons Right To Vote (

    June 16, 2004

    Another felon voting rights suit in Florida state court

    A panel of [Florida] appeal judges Tuesday called the state's explanation for not helping tens of thousands of former prison inmates to regain their legal rights baffling, contradictory and something out of "Alice In Wonderland."

    The case, which involves a lawsuit filed shortly after the disputed presidential election of 2000, could have important political ramifications by helping restore voting rights to thousands in a state with a history of razor-thin election margins. ...

    Judges expressed surprise the state did not provide the form.

    "The statute is clear," said Judge William Van Nortwick Jr. "I'm really struggling with your logic." He later called the state's reasoning "an Alice In Wonderland response."

    Judge Peter Webster repeatedly pointed to a line in the statute suggesting that the state provide applications. "You keep reading past that part of law," he said. -- Court chides state on voting rights (

    June 15, 2004

    Brennan Center says Florida has "massive discrepancies" in voter list

    Bump and update: Deborah Goldberg of the Brennan Center writes, "This comes a bit late. But in fact the Brennan Center has not sued Florida over the voter purge. We have been ferreting out the facts that might support future litigation -- and announced those -- but the reporter confused our ongoing case challenging felony disfranchisement in Florida with what was supposedly a new suit mentioned in the article."


    Florida's $2 million centralized voter database, which is supposed to help weed out felons and people who have died, may have a serious flaw, a New York legal group that is suing the state said Tuesday.

    The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law says this new database may not be including the names of thousands of people who had their voting rights restored by the state of Florida during a nearly 40-year period. If the information is true, it would raise serious questions as to the accuracy of a new list of nearly 48,000 registered voters that the state says are potential felons who are ineligible to vote. ...

    The Brennan Center, which has filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Florida's voting ban for felons, says it requested records from both the state Division of Elections and the state Office of Executive Clemency and discovered ''massive discrepancies'' between the two offices.

    Center lawyers said the documents revealed that the clemency office reported restoring voting rights to 171,408 people during a nearly 36-year period, while the Division of Elections said it only had records showing that 145,823 people had their rights restored at the time in question, between 1964 and 2000. -- State sued over voters' list (Miami Herald)

    The Brennan Center press release and 34 pages of supporting documents are here.

    June 14, 2004

    "Not fit to walk the streets" = unfit to vote

    CRIMINALS "not fit to walk the streets" were unfit to vote, [Australian] Special Minister of State Eric Abetz said yesterday.

    The Federal Senate will this week consider changes to the Electoral Act to ban all full-time prisoners from voting and to close the roll on the day writs are issued.

    Senator Abetz said a plan by Labor and the Australian Democrats to block the changes showed they were "soft on law and order."

    At present any person sentenced to less than five years in prison is still eligible to vote.

    "If you're not fit to walk the streets as deemed by the judicial system in this country, then chances are you're not a fit and proper person to cast a vote," Senator Abetz said. -- A hard cell on right to vote (The Daily Telegraph, Australia)

    California Assembly kills primary voting for 17-year-olds

    [California] Assembly members rejected a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that would have allowed 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, if they would be 18 by the general election.

    The proposal, by Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, aims to encourage voting among adults between the ages of 18 and 24, who have the lowest voter turnout of all age groups.

    The bill fell eight votes shy Monday of gathering the necessary two-thirds majority that would let voters decide the issue, but Mullin has asked the Assembly to reconsider it Thursday. -- AP Wire | 06/14/2004 | Lawmakers defeat proposal to let 17-year-olds vote (AP via San Jose Mercury News)

    June 11, 2004

    Washington files cert in felon voting rights case

    Amid a widening campaign to restore the voting rights of individuals convicted of crimes, the issue has returned to the Supreme Court in a plea by the state of Washington to sort out a conflict among the federal appeals courts. (The case is Locke v. Farrakhan, 03-1597.)

    Every state in the nation except two -- Maine and Vermont -- denies the right to vote to convicted felons who are still in prison. Most of those states also deny the vote to felons on parole or on probation, and at least 14 states ban felons from voting even after they have served their sentences. ...

    At issue is a decision by the Ninth Circuit on July 25, 2003; rehearing en banc was denied over the dissents of seven judges on February 24. The Circuit panel ruled that the Voting Rights Act’s Section 2 applies to felony disenfranchisement laws, and concluded that “racial bias in the criminal justice system” – demonstrated by statistical disparities about race in conviction rates in the state of Washington – can provide the basis for a Section 2 claim. ...

    In its petition to the Supreme Court, the state argues that the Ninth Circuit ruling conflicts with a 2003 decision by the Eleventh Circuit (Johnson v. Governor of Florida, now pending on rehearing petition) finding that Congress did not intend the Act to apply to felon disenfranchisement. There is another layer of conflict, the state says, with decisions of the Second and Sixth Circuits. -- New Appeal: Felons’ Voting Rights (SCOTUSblog)

    If anyone has a copy of the decision, email it to me or email me for instructions on where to fax it. The email address is in the upper right corner of the page.

    June 7, 2004

    Sen. Nelson joins CNN suit for Florida purge records

    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined CNN on Monday in a lawsuit challenging a Florida statute that prevents copying a list of names of more than 47,000 potential felons set to be purged from voter rolls.

    Florida's junior senator agrees with some of the 67 elections supervisors across the state who are concerned about the accuracy of the lists provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They want to ensure voters are not disenfranchised in the 2004 elections. -- Nelson joins CNN lawsuit over copying felons' voter list (AP via

    June 3, 2004

    12,000 Canadian prisoners get the vote

    Convicted serial robber Kevin Culmer calls his new right to help pick Canada's next prime minister a "great gift of humanity." The 42-year-old dual citizen of the Bahamas is among 12,000 federal prisoners -- including mass murderers, serial rapists and child molesters -- who now have the right to vote behind bars.

    This week Elections Canada is distributing information kits and posters to all penitentiaries, advising inmates their vote is secret, simple -- and that "it counts."

    Culmer, who stays informed on the daily issues of the campaign while doing time for 14 robberies, will encourage his fellow inmates to join him in casting a ballot. He believes it instils a sense of civic responsibility.

    "Voting is the greatest exercise in freedom that one can have, and to allow us to vote is a great gift of humanity," he said in an interview at Pittsburgh Institution near Kingston, one of seven sites in Ontario's prison hub. -- Cons set to cast ballots (Winnipeg Sun)

    CNN sues Florida for copy of list of alleged felons

    As Florida county election boards review a list of thousands of potentially ineligible voters -- including some who may be felons -- CNN is suing the state, claiming the public and media should also be able to review the list.
    The move comes four years after the state's voter rolls were at the center of one of the closest elections in U.S. history.
    The state Monday denied a CNN request for a copy of the list of up to 48,000 people. These people, according to the state, could be ineligible to vote because they are felons or have multiple registrations -- or have died since the last election. ...

    The state said that only government officials, candidates for office, and political parties can be provided copies of such records under state law.

    CNN as well as members of the general public were invited to view the documents in the Florida Division of Elections headquarters in Tallahassee, on the condition that there be no photocopying or note-taking. ...

    CNN filed suit Friday in a state circuit court in Tallahassee, Florida. --
    CNN asks Florida court for ineligible voters list (

    May 27, 2004

    Did crossover Republicans swing the Democratic primary?

    Subpoenas to voters will stop until an [Ohio] appeals court rules on a request to dismiss Judge Ann B. Maschari's petition contesting the March 2 primary election, according to a court ruling yesterday. ...

    Maschari's petition claims ''crossover'' voters -- Republicans who switched parties to vote in the Democratic primary -- created an irregularity that caused her loss to Sandusky lawyer Tygh M. Tone. She is asking the appeals court to declare her the winner or throw out the results of the election, according to her petition. ...

    In the March 2 election, Maschari received 6,118 votes, or 46.56 percent, while Tone received 7,022 votes, or 53.44 percent, according to official election results.

    Maschari's petition cited 1,400 crossover votes by Republicans who asked for Democratic ballots. That number could be as high as 2,659 people, according to a precinct voter change report compiled by staff at the Erie County Board of Elections. -- Court stops voter subpoenas (Lorain Morning Journal)

    May 26, 2004

    Civil rights groups see more election problems

    Civil rights groups warned Wednesday that the same problems with voter access and ballot confusion that plagued the 2000 election will happen again in November unless election officials act now. ...

    They cited:

    _Voter registration problems

    _Voters being wrongly purged from rolls

    _Improper implementation of a new requirement that newly registered voters show ID on Election Day if the state hasn't verified their identity

    _Difficulties with voting machines and ballots

    _Potential failure to count newly required provisional ballots.

    They proposed better education for voters and poll workers, notifying people before removing them from voter lists and setting statewide standards for counting provisional ballots, which are supposed to be available for people who think they're eligible to vote but don't find their name listed at a polling place. -- Nov. Election Worries Civil Rights Groups (AP via

    May 24, 2004

    Florida purge causes concern

    Florida is once again purging voter rolls of thousands of suspected felons who are ineligible to vote in the state. But opponents note that when Florida last purged voter rolls in 2000, thousands of residents were erroneously listed as felons. Many are still trying to get their voting rights restored. Hear NPR's Philip Davis. -- NPR : Florida Voter-Purge Stirs Debate

    May 23, 2004

    Australian government proposes restrictions on right to vote

    AS MANY as 100,000 people will be locked out of polling stations at this year's [Australian] federal election, under proposed changes to laws.

    And almost 300,000 more face election-day confusion because of Federal Government plans to close the electoral rolls on the day the election is called by Prime Minister John Howard.

    The changes fly in the face of unanimous recommendations from a parliamentary committee, which said voters should be able to enrol up to one week after the election is announced. ...

    The Government also plans to remove the right to vote of everyone serving a prison sentence on election day - around 18,000 nationwide.

    Presently, only those serving sentences of five years or more lose their voting rights. -- Young voters facing lockout (The Courier Mail, Australia)

    May 22, 2004

    Florida Dems double-check the purge

    Florida has begun another purge of felons from its voter rolls, and state Democratic leaders want no glitches that could stop law-abiding citizens from voting.

    So they're going to double-check the state's work.

    The Florida Democratic Party on Friday asked for all public records relating to how the state Division of Elections developed its list of nearly 50,000 "potential felons," which was transmitted to the state's 67 election supervisors last week. ...

    The information will be made available to the party as early as Monday, said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State. -- Democrats to 'verify' purge of voter rolls (

    May 18, 2004

    11th Circuit: Georgia Democrats may not sue over open primary

    On Monday, the 11th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by the supporters of former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney who claimed that McKinney's loss in the 2002 Democratic primary to now-Rep. Denise Majette was because of Republican "cross-over" votes. The Republicans were able to vote in the Democratic primary because Georgia has an open primary. The complaint alleged that the open primary violated (1) the equal protection clause; (2) the Plaintiffs’ associational rights under the First Amendment; and (3) Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court held that voters (as opposed to the party) do not have standing to complain about the open primary; that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim of violation of the equal protection clause; and had not shown a violation of the VRA. Osburn v. Cox.

    May 15, 2004

    County officials worry about felon purge in Florida

    The state's push to remove thousands of "potential felons" from voter rolls [in Florida] is causing angst among local election officials, who worry about inaccurate information, unfair results and yet another round of election-year lawsuits.

    Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles, who has almost 2,200 potential felons to verify, said computer data supplied to counties by the state is riddled with problems, including wrong names and criminal charges that may have been reduced.

    Under state law, it is county election officials, not the state, who must verify convictions and notify people who would be dropped from voter rolls. ...

    Already, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP and other groups are pressuring county voting supervisors not to purge any voters unless there is hard proof they are felons, who by law cannot vote.

    The ACLU also is threatening lawsuits. In a letter to all 67 county election officials, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon warned that counties must be careful because they're the last line of defense. -- Counties fear errors in plan to cut felons from local voter lists (

    May 12, 2004

    Florida felon purge draws fire

    Election officials in Florida have ordered local election supervisors to once again begin purging convicted felons from voting lists. The move, which comes just six months before a presidential election expected to be very close in Florida, has angered civil rights groups. They say state officials have not yet reinstated the voting rights of all the people who were illegally kept from voting in 2000 and they warn of another election fiasco in the works.

    "Here we go again," said Ralph G. Neas, President of the People for the American Way Foundation "Even before they have corrected the mistakes of four years ago, before they have restored the rights to the people who were wronged in 2000, they're starting this process yet again. It's mind-boggling." Neas' organization is a nonprofit civil rights group working to strengthen democratic institutions.

    In what state election officials say is an attempt to comply with Florida law, which denies convicted felons the right to vote, the Florida state Division of Elections sent a memo to local election supervisors directing them to take convicted felons off the voting rolls, reports the Miami Herald.

    "As part of our quality assurance testing, felon and clemency information was run against a copy of the current voter registration database and has identified over 40,000 potential felon matches statewide," wrote Ed Kast, director of the state Division of Elections, in a the memo, according to the Herald. -- Civil Rights Groups Criticize Renewed Florida Felon Voter Purges (the New Standard)

    May 9, 2004

    Britain considers voting for 16-year olds

    Has life at 16 ever been sweet? Not really, and especially not now. Today's 16-year-olds are a generation in turmoil. In some ways, of course, it was ever thus: what is adolescence about if not working through a maelstrom of emotions? When has life at 16 not involved a muddle of contradictions and embryonic big ideas bound together in a big bravado shell?

    Last week The Independent revealed, exclusively, that the Prime Minister intends to add to the modern teenage burden by giving 16-year-olds the right to vote. Labour will pledge to do so in its next election manifesto, against the advice of the Electoral Commission. But any politicians who eventually tout their wares to this generation will have to understand the ways in which it has been dealt a tough hand. -- Focus: Sweet 16 - Would you give the vote to them?
    Tony Blair would. He wants to lower the voting age and allow 1.3 million teenagers their say. But are they ready - and will they bother - to vote? Joanna Moorhead knocks on the bedroom door of a generation to find out (The Independent, UK)

    May 7, 2004

    New Jersey seeks dismissal of felon voting rights case

    The state [of New Jersey] is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups that would allow ex-convicts to vote while they are on probation or parole.

    The lawsuit, filed in January in state Superior Court in Elizabeth, claims that because most of those on parole or probation in New Jersey are black or Latino, denying them the right to vote violates the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

    At a hearing Friday, the state Attorney General's Office asked Superior Court Judge Miriam Span to dismiss the suit, but the judge did not issue a ruling. It is expected within the next few weeks, said Frank Askin, director of Rutgers Law School's Constitutional Litigation Clinic.

    "Our argument is that because of the disparate impact of the disenfranchisement law, it becomes an issue of equal protection under the law," he said. "It weakens the voting power of the entire minority community in New Jersey." --
    State seeks dismissal of voting rights lawsuit for ex-cons (AP via

    May 6, 2004

    Felon purge in Florida

    Florida elections officials have ordered local supervisors to begin purging their voter rolls of felons - an election-year directive that some say would remove up to 40,000 people, many of them likely black Democrats. ...

    Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings said Thursday the administration had no choice in ordering the purge, that it was complying with the federal election law. ...

    Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Glenda Hood, said it's mandatory under state law and that the list has the approval the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which sued the state in 2001 over the list used in 2000.

    "We feel confident that the same mistakes made in 2000 will not be repeated," Nash said Wednesday. -- State wants felons purged from voter list (AP via

    Testimony before the EAC

    Ludovic Blain III, Associate Director of the Democracy Program of "Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action" (that is pronounced DEE-mos) has sent his organization's testimony for the U. S. Election Assistance Commission's May 5 public hearing on the use, security, and reliability of electronic voting systems.

    If other organizations would like to send their testimony (or better yet, a link to their testimony), I will be happy to post them.

    April 26, 2004

    China to Hong Kong: no direct elections

    China's parliament Monday dashed Hong Kong people's hopes of directly electing their leaders in polls in 2007 and 2008, reinforcing Beijing's full control over democratic progress in the territory.

    The decision came after top members of the National People's Congress (NPC) had voted on political reforms for the former British colony, where calls have mounted for more voting rights out of growing frustration with the China-backed administration.

    "There will be no universal suffrage for electing the third Chief Executive in 2007," Tsang Hin-chi, a Hong Kong member of the NPC's Standing Committee, told reporters in Beijing.

    "There will be no universal suffrage for all legislators," he said, referring to elections due in 2008. His comments were carried live on Hong Kong's Cable Television. ...

    Half of Hong Kong's Legislative Council is returned via direct election, while the other half is selected by largely pro-Beijing professional and business groups. -- China Rules Out Direct Elections in HK in 2007-08 (

    April 24, 2004

    Ex-felons getting the right to vote in Virginia, one by one

    In a matter of months, Gov. Mark R. Warner will have restored civil rights to more ex-convicts than any other governor in Virginia's modern history.

    Warner, a Democrat, has restored voting and other rights to more former state convicts during the past two years than the past two Republican governors -- Jim Gilmore and George Allen -- did during their combined eight years in office.
    Not since Gov. Charles S. Robb, a Democrat who served from 1982 to 1986, has any governor restored civil rights at such a pace.

    "As long as I'm governor, this is going to be our approach," Warner said this week. In Virginia, anyone convicted of a felony loses certain rights, including the right to vote, hold public office, serve on a jury or act as a notary public. The state is one of only seven where felons have their voting rights taken away for life.

    However, the governor has the discretionary power to restore all citizenship rights, except for the right to possess a firearm. Felons do not become eligible for rights restoration until years after they have completed any sentence. -- Warner restoring rights to felons at quick pace ( Online)

    April 18, 2004

    Alabama rally for felon voting rights

    Prison reform activists from several states were among about 100 people at a Capitol rally [in Montgomery, Alabama] on voting rights for convicted felons.

    About 212,000 prisoners, ex-felons and parolees in Alabama have lost their vote. More than 111,000 of them are black, which represents 14 percent of the state's voting-age black population, according to a 2000 study by the Sentencing Project, part of the Right to Vote Campaign.

    At Saturday's rally, State Sen. Quinton Ross and Rep. Alvin Holmes, both Montgomery Democrats, said laws that prohibit convicted felons from regaining voting rights until they seek approval from the state is unfair to those who have completed terms behind bars. -- Rally focuses on felon voting rights (AP via

    April 16, 2004

    Felons regaining the right to vote in Alabama

    About 212,000 prisoners, ex-felons and parolees in Alabama have lost their vote. More than 111,000 of them are black, which represents 14 percent of the state's voting-age black population, according to a 2000 study by the Sentencing Project, part of the Right to Vote Campaign.

    In the seven months since Alabama's law changed, about 800 felons such as Glasgow, a fraction of the disenfranchised, have gotten their voting rights restored, said David Sadler, who coordinates voter registrations for the Montgomery-based Alabama Restore the Vote Coalition.

    Similar to the war on drugs, voting laws and policies continue to disproportionately affect black voters.

    At Saturday's march [to the steps of the Alabama Capitol at 10 a.m.], advocates plan to link disenfranchisement to Alabama's harsh sentencing statutes for drug offenders and repeat offenders affected by the Habitual Felony Offender Act, which has sent hundreds of non-violent offenders to prison for life terms. -- State's ex-felons start to regain voting rights (Birmingham News)

    A prescription for more democracy

    Activists are often puzzled by low voter participation in our communities. How come all our door-knocking, town hall meetings and voter registration drives don't seem to increase voter turn-out? And why are politicians so cavalier about resisting the demands of organized community members?

    While some people simply choose not to vote, there are many more who are prevented, either by law or practice, from registering or actually casting a vote that counts. Laws that link voter eligibility to criminal conviction and citizenship, needlessly early voter registration deadlines, difficult voter registration processes, inaccessible and out-of-the-way polling places, and voting machines that require English literacy, visual acuity and manual dexterity are just some of the obstacles that would-be voters face when they try to exercise their right to vote.

    Many current election laws create barriers that rob votes from urban, progressive, people of color, youth and low-income-friendly candidates for elected office. They reduce the power that many communities have to elect their own candidates. And since elected officials have little to fear from constituencies that don't vote, and even less from people who can't, these communities have little political influence. The end result: a democracy that doesn't work. -- No Vote, No Power by Ludovic Blain (AlterNet)

    April 14, 2004

    Prisoners vote in South Africa

    Western Cape [South Africa] Pollsmoor Prison inmate, Fuad Hendricks, sentenced to three years for housebreaking, cast his vote for the Democratic Alliance because he wants "less crime", "more jobs" and "less poverty".

    Discontent with the crime situation in South Africa is perhaps a surprising sentiment to colour the voting choice of a prison inmate, but then again maybe not… For as Hendricks explains: "The DA said that they would bring crime down and create more jobs for people who are unemployed. If I had a job I would not be a criminal." ...

    Ibrahim Petersen, serving time for housebreaking and theft, believes that it would be wrong to deny prisoners their right to vote arguing that you need to vote because at some stage you will put your crime "behind you".

    "It's very good to allow prisoners to vote because we can get better."

    Security Officer at the prison, Lous van Hansen, shares this sentiment arguing that the prisoners are "human beings with a right to vote".

    "Things have changed now in the new South Africa. They see the warders voting," he says, implying that denying prisoners the right to vote amounts to a denial of prisoners' humanity. -- Prisoners vote for solutions to crime ( )

    The story has pictures of prisoners voting inside the prison.

    BBC has more details on those with Down's syndrome being struck from the electoral roll

    A number of people with Down's syndrome in Northern Ireland have encountered difficulties in registering to vote in June's European elections, it has emerged. ...

    Denis Stanley, the chief electoral officer, ... said anybody could face an objection to their registration to vote.

    "The Electoral Register is available, once it's published, at all our offices throughout Northern Ireland, as well as at district council offices," he said.

    "Anyone can look at the register to see if they're on themselves, or if they want to object to anyone, for any reason."

    The changes in the vote registration system were introduced in an attempt to combat electoral fraud. ...

    A report in December last year said measures to combat voting fraud in Northern Ireland had a negative impact on young people and those in poorer areas.

    The Electoral Commission said this measure tended to have an adverse impact on disadvantaged, marginalised and hard to reach groups. -- Learning disabled 'vote difficulties' (BBC NEWS)

    April 13, 2004

    Northern Ireland excluding those with Down syndrome from electoral roll

    Mental health campaigners expressed dismay yesterday after it was claimed that people with Down syndrome are being refused the right to vote in Northern Ireland.

    Patsy McGlone, an SDLP Assembly member, said a constituent with the condition had been refused a place on the electoral roll even though he had been on it as recently as the Assembly elections last November and had voted in the past.

    "The Electoral Office is now saying that because he has Down syndrome, he is not entitled to vote. This fellow wants to go out and vote with everyone else and I know fine well that he knows who he wants to vote for," said Mr McGlone.

    The Mid-Ulster MLA claimed that his constituent was not alone and that he knew - through fellow Assembly members - of hundreds of people across the province who were suddenly in the same position. Mr McGlone has been in contact with the Equality Commission, seeking to challenge the issue under disability legislation. He said it could also be a matter for the Human Rights Commission. -- People with Down syndrome 'refused right to vote' (

    April 11, 2004

    Movement to lower the voting age

    It sounds counterintuitive: Young adults don't vote, so lower the voting age.

    But advocates for a lower voting age say 18 is the worst time to start voting because that's when teenagers' lives are in turmoil -- moving away to college, stressing out over graduation, getting a job, joining the armed forces.

    And studies show voting is a habit that has to start early. If people don't start early as voters, they're less likely to vote ever.

    Some researchers fear that nonvoters in this generation will remain nonvoters as they age, causing a dangerous dive in voter turnout as baby boomers and older generations die out. In the 2000 election, senior citizens voted at about twice the rate of 18- to 24-year-olds. -- Change in voting age is sought (Gannett News Service via

    April 8, 2004

    Push to give immigrants the vote in New York

    At first glance, it may seem a long shot in an era of orange alerts and stepped-up border patrols. But quietly and carefully, elected officials, labor unions and community groups are starting to push the notion of allowing legal immigrants who are not United States citizens to vote in New York City elections. ...

    At a minimum, it is an intriguing prospect in a city with about a million legal immigrants of voting age who are not citizens — equivalent to more than a fifth of the total number of current voters. Granting those people, most of them Hispanic or Asian, the right to vote could change the electoral calculus in a number of arenas, from the races for mayor and the five borough presidents to ballot questions on city borrowing and building projects.

    The new voters would be more likely to elect minority candidates, political analysts say, and could force politicians to become more responsive to issues like deportation policy and immigrant access to health care. If voting rights were extended to the state level — truly a long shot at this point — the effects would be even greater, forcing redistricting that could affect the balance of power in Congress. Although all residents are counted when district lines are redrawn, normally only eligible voters are included when the new districts are challenged in court under the Voting Rights Act.

    "This would be seismic in its impact," said Roberto Ramirez, a political consultant and lawyer who has served as a state assemblyman and chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party. "Both parties would have to develop a different mindset to address policy issues for those residents who have historically not been part of the political process." -- Push Is On to Give Legal Immigrants Vote in New York (

    April 5, 2004

    Connecticut teaching inmates about voting rights

    A new program is being tested out by [Connecticut] state prison officials to make the transition for inmates to life out on the streets a bit easier.

    Many inmates leave prison without the basic identification needed to cash the state check given to them upon their release. ...

    The transition service program is a three-class course offered to inmates at prison in Enfield, Montville, Niantic and Storrs. It is offered to help inmates with six months or less remaining on their sentences to plan ahead.

    The classes teach the inmates about their voting rights, where to get clothes and how to get assistance with education, employment and housing. -- Test program for inmates facing release (AP via

    Radio broadcast on felon voting rights

    The convict must pay a debt to society. The principle is central to the justice system. But for millions of Americans, a felony conviction not only means going off to prison, but losing the right to vote long after they get out. In some cases, for life.

    There is a new movement stirring in states across the country to restore voting rights to all the felons who sit on the sidelines. Some argue that by taking way their right to vote, felons lose a voice as citizens; and their communities are further marginalized. Others counter that opening up the ballot box to convicted murders and rapists, would allow untrustworthy and irresponsible people to help make laws for the rest of society. -- Voting Rights for Felons (The Connection, WBUR, Boston)

    March 30, 2004

    "Right to Vote" website pushes the re-enfranchisement of felons

    Right to Vote is an umbrella group of eight national organizations and five state-level groups working for the re-enfranchisement of ex-felons. Looks like a useful site.

    134th anniversary of the 15th Amendment

    Today is Tuesday, March 30, the 90th day of 2004. There are 276 days left in the year.

    On this date:

    In 1870, the 15th amendment to the Constitution, giving black men the right to vote, was declared in effect. -- Today in History - March 30 (AP via

    March 29, 2004

    Immigrants vote for Rome city council

    Immigrants living in Rome voted Sunday to elect city and district representatives from their own ranks in the first such election here. The vote was designed to give non-Italians a greater say in Italian affairs.

    Fifty-one candidates from across the globe vied for four nonvoting seats on Rome's city council -- one each to represent Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Another 172 others were bidding for 19 nonvoting district council seats, representing each of Rome's 19 municipal neighborhoods. -- Immigrants vote for representatives to Rome city council, municipal districts (AP via Contra Costa Times)

    Maine's 17-year olds get the right to vote in primaries

    [Maine] Gov. John Baldacci has signed a bill giving 17-year-olds the right to vote in Maine primaries, provided they turn 18 in time for the general election. Baldacci signed the bill Friday. ...

    The bill was scaled back from a constitutional amendment that was introduced last year. In its original form, the bill sought to give unqualified voting rights to 17-year-olds. -- Bill gives 17-year-olds vote in primaries (AP via