You are here: Home > Election litigation/prosecutions

September 7, 2015

"Olivia Reynolds found guilty of 24 counts of voter fraud"

The Dothan Eagle reports: A Houston County jury found Olivia Reynolds guilty Wednesday afternoon for her role in a voter fraud case.

Assistant District Attorney Banks Smith said the jury found 66-year-old Olivia Reynolds guilty of 24 felony counts of absentee ballot fraud. Smith said the jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning with the guilty verdicts.

Houston County Sheriff?s investigators arrested Reynolds in May 2014. She was one of three women charged who worked on the 2013 campaign for District 2 City Commissioner Amos Newsome.

In the August election, Newsome beat challenger Lamesa Danzey by 14 votes. Newsome received 119 of the 124 absentee votes that were cast. Danzey received more votes than Newsome at the polls. ...

Smith said some of the voters testified at trial how they never wanted to vote for Newsome yet their ballot was cast for Newsome anyway. -- Olivia Reynolds found guilty of 24 counts of voter fraud - Dothan Eagle: Crime Court

"Alabama voter convicted for openly carrying gun to poll" reports: A Pelham man was convicted Friday on misdemeanor charges he illegally wore, in open view, a holstered pistol at a polling site during last year's Nov. 4 general election.

Robert Kennedy Jr., 59, was convicted in a bench trial before Shelby County District Court Judge Daniel A. Crowson Jr. on charges of voting obstruction and possession of firearms at certain places.

Crowson sentenced Kennedy to 30 days in jail, but suspended it 24 months and placed him on unsupervised probation for each conviction, with both sentences running concurrent. -- Alabama voter convicted for openly carrying gun to poll |

August 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 24, 2015

Alabama redistricting case set for argument on Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

March 26, 2015

US Supreme Court vacates Alabama's win on redistricting plan, remands for new proceedings

The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with black and Democratic lawmakers in Alabama who said the State Legislature had relied too heavily on race in its 2012 state redistricting by maintaining high concentrations of black voters in some districts.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court?s four more liberal members to form a majority.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said a lower court had erred in considering the case on a statewide basis rather than district by district. He added that the lower court had placed too much emphasis on making sure that districts had equal populations and had been "too mechanical" in maintaining existing percentages of black voters.

The Supreme Court vacated the lower court's ruling and sent the two consolidated cases -- Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, No. 13-895, and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, No. 13-1138 -- back to it for reconsideration.

Richard L. Hasen, an expert on election law at the University of California, Irvine, said Wednesday's decision might represent only a short-term victory for the plaintiffs.

"It seems likely on remand that at least some of Alabama's districts will be found to be racial gerrymanders," he wrote in a blog post. "This means that some of these districts will have to be redrawn to 'unpack' some minority voters from these districts."

"But do not be surprised," he continued, "if Alabama pre-empts the lawsuit by drawing new districts which are less racially conscious but still constitute a partisan gerrymander which helps the Republicans have greater control over the Alabama legislative districts." --Supreme Court Rules Against Alabama in Redistricting Case -

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the prevailing Alabama Legislative Black Caucus in one of the two consolidated cases. James U. Blacksher (of Birmingham) is lead counsel, Eric Schnapper (U of Washington Law School) argued in the Supreme Court, and UW Clemon (of Birmingham) is also on the team.

Prof. Rick Hasen's analysis of the case is here.

March 21, 2015

Mobile license commission gave office email list to candidate for mayor reports: In the days leading up to election night of a hotly contested mayoral race, Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie allegedly leaked thousands of private taxpayer email addresses from a county database to the mayoral campaign of Sandy Stimpson.

Now that Hastie is facing a federal criminal charge on the matter, the architects of Stimpson's winning campaign maintain that their actions were by the book. ...

Five days before the April 2013 mayoral election, Hastie and Yeager met with License Commission employees in August 2013 and Hastie instructed one of them to email "everyone within Mobile's city limits" a statement from her endorsing Stimpson, court records show.

The employee warned Hastie that sending out an email would be "improper" and cautioned her against it, according to court records. Hastie then directed the employee to retrieve and download email addresses of Mobile County residents onto a flash drive. -- 'The list came to the campaign': Stimpson electioneers talk Kim Hastie's alleged last-minute email scheme |

December 18, 2014

Three small parties lose appeal against 3% rule

AP reports: A federal appeals court has upheld Alabama's ballot access law that was challenged by third-party presidential candidates trying to get their names before voters in 2012.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the decision of a trial court dismissing the lawsuit.

Alabama requires third-party candidates to collect signatures equal to 3 percent of the votes cast in the last governor's election in order to be listed on the ballot with their party affiliation. Candidates had to collect 44,828 signatures in 2012. -- Alabama Libertarians, Green Party and Constitution Party suffer setback in ballot access fight |

NOTE: A copy of the opinion is here

November 5, 2014

"Alabama Democrats take redistricting fight to the Supreme Court"

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

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

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

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

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

October 29, 2014

A campaign-finance tidbit from the 3rd day of Barry Moore's perjury trial reports: Prosecutors sought to introduce evidence that Hubbard was helping to pay for Moore's legal defense through campaign contributions.

They said campaign finance reports would show that.

The defense lawyers objected to introducing information about Hubbard's campaign funds paying Moore's legal fees. They said it would be prejudicial to the jury, which was not in the courtroom during the discussion.

Prosecutors dropped their request to introduce the information about legal fees. -- Rep. Barry Moore takes the stand in perjury trial, says Speaker Mike Hubbard never threatened to withhold project funds |

October 15, 2014

"Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, is not only spending his campaign donations on his legal defense, he is also hiring "private-eyes" with other people's money.

Moores latest FCPA filing show that he raised $16,000, for the week ending October 10. All totaled, Moore had a beginning balance of $35,351.64. Of that amount he spent $27,157.31 on his legal defense. Moore is charged with two felony counts of making false statements and two felony counts of perjury, in relation to the Special Grand Jury probe into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. If convicted, Moore could face a maximum of 60 years in State prison.

But, not only did donors pony-up for lawyers at Baxley, Dillard, Mcknight & James and Motley, Motley & Yarbrough, they paid for the services of Dothan-based M & M Investigation. -- Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense

August 26, 2014

State drops prosecution of Barron and Johnson reports: The prosecution of former state Sen. Lowell Barron is over.

The Alabama Attorney General's office, which brought a six-count indictment against Barron in 2013, filed a motion Monday in DeKalb County Circuit Court to dismiss the charges.

Trial judge Randall Cole hasn't ruled on the motion filed late Monday afternoon yet but his approval is considered a formality.

Dropping the charges was not unexpected after the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday denied an appeal by the AG's office, upholding ruling by two lower courts on evidence that could be admitted at trial. Based on court documents filed by prosecutors, that decision left the state without a case against Barron. -- Alabama Attorney General's office drops criminal charges against Lowell Barron |

August 23, 2014

Circuit Court puts Alexander back on the ballot (2) reports: As expected, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price issued an order today in favor of Louise Alexander in her effort to remain on the ballot in the race for District 56 in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Price had announced on Monday he would rule in Alexander's favor.

The judge found the state Democratic Party was at fault for not forwarding a form to the Ethics Commission.

Secretary of State Jim Bennett said the case highlighted the need to strengthen the state law on the requirement that candidates file statements of economic interests with the Ethics Commission.

Price's ruling overturns Bennett's decision to disqualify Alexander from the race. -- Jim Bennett says he'll seek clearer ethics law after Louise Alexander prevails in ballot dispute |

AG loses on critical evidence rulings in case against Lowell Barron

Alabama Supreme Court rules in favor of Lowell Barron: 'This case should now be concluded,' Barron says | reports: The Alabama Supreme Court ruled today against an appeal made by prosecutors in the case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron.

The ruling could be a prelude to the charges against Barron and co-defendant Rhonda Jill Johnson of Scottsboro being dismissed. ...

The court unanimously upheld two lower court rulings on evidence that could be presented at the trial of Barron and Johnson that prosecutors from the state attorney general's office said was critical to their case. ...

The AGs office focused on three aspects of a ruling by DeKalb County Circuit Judge Randall Cole, the trial judge, for its appeal:

  • Cole said comments Johnson regarding a romantic relationship with Barron to a reporter of a Montgomery-based blog could not be introduced at trial, which is an element of motive.
  • Cole said prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of a romantic relationship between Barron and Johnson, which the state said would be a demonstration of motive and intent.
  • Cole said Barron can provide testimony and evidence from other politicians to discuss how campaign funds are spent, ruling against a motion filed by the state.

August 17, 2014

"Relators' mount unusual legal challenge to authority of Sen. Del Marsh"

The Anniston Star reports: On a Thursday morning in a dimly-lit courtroom in downtown Montgomery, Donald Curtis Casey, a retired Birmingham steel company employee, is telling a judge why he wants to remove the president pro tempore of the Alabama Senate from office.

He's also trying to explain why he doesn't consider himself a plaintiff, nor does he consider Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, a defendant.

"This is a situation where we have filed a quo warranto, and it's not a justiciable controversy," Casey said. He pronounces it "jus-TICK-able."

"Jus-TISH-able," Circuit Court Judge William Shashy replies. "Let me tell you something. When you say it's not a justiciable controversy, you're talking against your own case." -- 'Relators' mount unusual legal challenge to authority of Sen. Del Marsh - The Anniston Star: News

Comment: No excerpt can do justice to this bizarre attack on Sen. Marsh because he was the sponsor of a bill to create a Constitutional Revision Commission.

June 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related stories:

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

  • May 29, 2014

    Votes for McNeil may be cast, but won't count reports: Republican candidate Chris McNeil says he's spent about $30,000 to get voters in the House 102 primary on his side, and he expects many are ready to support him on June 3. But after a judge's ruling on Tuesday, the one thing he won't be able to do is make their vote worth even the paper they're tallied on.

    McNeil was before Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Rick Stout, seeking certification as a qualified candidate in the race; something he was denied when the Alabama Republican Party invalidated his candidacy for the House District 102 seat when it was determined the Semmes businessman didn't live in the district he was seeking to represent in Montgomery.

    Unfortunately, the decision was made after the primary ballots were printed, so McNeil's name will appear as an option for voters, albeit an uncountable one. The race is to fill the seat held by retiring Rep. Chad Fincher. ...

    And yet, after an afternoon of arguments from Agricola, as well as two lawyers for the defense, Stout ruled that what's done is done, and he saw no reason for the court to interfere with any sort of injunction or pre-certification. Several times during the proceeding, the judge asserted that the Circuit Court has no place in "partisan primaries." -- Judge rules votes for House GOP candidate won't count, even though his name is on ballot |

    May 15, 2014

    AG says circuit court evidence ruling is fatal to case against former-Senator Lowell Barron

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The attorney general's office said Wednesday that a trial judge's rulings are fatal to its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron if they are not reversed.

    Attorney General Luther Strange's office filed papers with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals encouraging it to consider rulings by Circuit Judge Randall Cole. The judge ruled last month that the prosecution couldn't present evidence about whether Barron and a former aide had a romantic relationship. The judge also rejected the attorney general's attempt to keep Barron from presenting evidence about what are ordinary campaign expenditures by candidates.

    In the court papers Wednesday, the attorney general's office said, "These rulings, if not reversed, are fatal to the State's case." -- Alabama AG seeks appeals court help in Barron case

    May 3, 2014

    "Rep. Barry Moore asks for expedited hearing, says charges an attempt to 'undermine electoral process' " reports: State Rep. Barry Moore has asked the court for an expedited hearing in his criminal case and says the charges are an attempt to thwart his re-election bid.

    Lawyers for Moore filed the motion on Thursday.

    Also on Thursday, prosecutors filed a motion asking that the court set a hearing no sooner than May 19.

    Moore, a Republican from Enterprise, was indicted by a special grand jury in Lee County on two counts each of perjury and giving false statements. He has denied wrongdoing, and on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

    Thursday's three-page motion says the indictment "is being used, by design, to undermine the electoral process in Coffee County, Alabama." -- Rep. Barry Moore asks for expedited hearing, says charges an attempt to 'undermine electoral process' |

    GOP finds Mobile candidate ineligible, but he remains on the ballot reports: Republican voters in Alabama House of Representatives District 102 can cast their ballots for Chris McNeil next month, but party will not recognize him.

    The state party's candidate committee on Friday voted to remove McNeil based on a challenge that he does not live in the district. It is too late to change the ballot, though, so the party said in a prepared statement that it would urge voters to select one of the other two candidates.

    "Because the deadline has passed to remove a candidate's name from the ballot, the Alabama Republican Party will work to educate Republican primary voters that Mr. McNeil's residency makes him ineligible to hold this office and that he cannot be certified as the nominee of the Alabama Republican Party," the statement read.

    McNeil said he plans to press his case in federal court. He argued that the party's decision violates a federal order handed down by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Montgomery approving a decision to move up the qualifying deadline for candidates for the primary. -- Alabama GOP invalidates Mobile legislative candidate but can't remove name from ballot |

    May 2, 2014

    Criminal Appeals Court may dismiss State's pretrial appeal of evidence rulings in Lowell Barron case reports: The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today signaled an intention to reject an appeal by prosecutors in its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron.

    The appeals court, in its order issued today, said the appeal "is due to be dismissed because the Appellant is attempting to appeal from a nonappealable order." The court gave prosecutors from the state Attorney General's office 14 days to "show cause why this appeal should not be dismissed." ...

    Prosecutors cited three points in its appeal:

  • [DeKalb County Circuit Judge Randall] Cole said comments Johnson regarding a romantic relationship with Barron to a reporter of a Montgomery-based blog could not be introduced at trial, which is an element of motive.

  • Cole said prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of a romantic relationship between Barron and Johnson, which the state said would be a demonstration of motive and intent.

  • Cole said Barron can provide testimony and evidence from other politicians to discuss how campaign funds are spent, ruling against a motion filed by the state. -- Lowell Barron gains apparent victory as appeals court indicates prosecution's appeal may be dismissed |

  • June 21, 2013

    Birmingham city councilor pleads guilty to interfering with voter reports: Birmingham Councilwoman Lashunda Scales has accepted a plea bargain that eliminates felony charges against her, avoiding jail time and avoiding automatic removal from office.

    On June 4 Scales was indicted on two felony charges and six counts of using her official office for personal gain and voter interference.

    In an agreement reached this afternoon with Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls and approved by Judge Tommy Nail, the counts against Scales were reduced to two and downgraded to one violation and one misdemeanor.

    In exchange, Scales pleaded guilty to interfering with an elector, a minor legal violation, and a misdemeanor charge of unintentional use of public equipment. ...

    The original four voter intimidation and interference counts stemmed from allegations from Jami L. Bryant that Scales attempted to "disturb, or prevent, or attempt to prevent" her from voting during the city's bond referendum held Oct. 9, 2012. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham Councilwoman Lashunda Scales accepts plea bargain, avoids felony charges & retains office |

    April 24, 2013

    Former Sen. Lowell Barron arrested for campaign-finance violations reports: Former state senator Lowell Ray Barron, for years a legislative powerhouse in Montgomery, has been indicted on charges of violating the state's ethics and campaign finance laws, the attorney general's office announced. ...

    Former campaign staffer, Rhonda Jill Johnson, was also arrested.

    Attorney General Luther Strange's Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a DeKalb County grand jury, resulting in the indictment of Barron and Johnson on April 19.

    Barron and Johnson face six total counts of Ethics Law violations and violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. -- Read the whole story --> Former state senator Lowell Barron indicted on campaign finance, ethics charges |

    A press release from the AG's office describes the charges:

    Count 1 charges Lowell Barron and Jill Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

    Count 2 charges Barron and Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

    Count 3 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

    Count 4 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

    Count 5 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improperly transferring campaign property, a 2007 Toyota Camry, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes; and

    Count 6 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $6,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes.

    December 16, 2012

    Alabama AG subpoenas GOP financial records for 2010 election reports: The Alabama Republican Party's steering committee - a group of 21 party leaders from across the state - gathered in good spirits in Montgomery on Wednesday afternoon.

    After a regular, quarterly meeting to discuss party business, they were set to socialize at a Christmas reception hosted in their honor by Gov. Robert Bentley at the Alabama Governor's Mansion.

    The committee convened in a conference room at the Alabama Cattlemen's Association building near the state Capitol, and the meeting kicked off with an unexpected bang. Bill Armistead, the party's chairman, told the group that he'd received a subpoena from the Alabama Attorney General's office seeking GOP financial records.

    Reading from the document, Armistead said the order was part of a grand jury investigation into campaign finance activities in the 2010 election cycle, according to three committee members who participated in the meeting. A fourth committee member recounted similar remarks but said he did not recall a specific reference to a subpoena. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama GOP finances under investigation, chairman tells party leaders |

    December 14, 2012

    ADC files suit against legislative redistricting

    The Gadsden Times reports: The predominantly black Alabama Democratic Conference and others filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging state House and Senate districts that were redrawn earlier this year by the Legislature.

    The lawsuit filed Thursday claims legislators drew the districts in a way that caps the number of areas where black candidates have a realistic chance of winning legislative seats. The lawsuit says the districts adopted by the Republican-majority legislature violate the U.S. and Alabama constitutions and the federal Voting Rights Act.

    The redistricting plans "constitute racial gerrymandering" and will result in discrimination against minority voters, the lawsuit alleges.

    House Speaker Mike Hubbard defended the plans, which have been approved by the U.S. Justice Department. He said the plans were developed after lawmakers sought input from residents across the state. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit challenges new Ala. legislative districts |

    November 1, 2012

    Excluded candidate files suit to stop election

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: Arthur Crawford, who won the Democratic runoff election for Hale County probate judge in spring only to be declared ineligible this past summer, is still hoping to claim the seat.

    Crawford filed a civil suit in Hale County Circuit Court last week asking Judge Tommy Jones to stop the election "until the proper candidates can be placed on the ballot."

    The general election is Tuesday, and Crawford's name is not on the ballot.

    In the April Democratic runoff, however, Crawford beat incumbent Leland Avery by 80 votes.

    Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price later ruled that Crawford was ineligible and ordered the Alabama Democratic Party Chairman to revoke his certificate of nomination "due to his admitted failure to" timely file campaign finance reports. Crawford did not comply with new campaign finance disclosure laws that require weekly reports to be filed during a runoff. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit seeks to halt Hale County election |

    October 23, 2012

    Sec of State will seek higher penalties for election fraud

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

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

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

    October 20, 2012

    Former Secretary of State Worley pleads guilty

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

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

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

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

    August 24, 2012

    Seven states support Shelby County's challenge to VRA

    The Birmingham News ( reports: Seven states, including Alabama, are backing Shelby County's legal challenge to the heart of the Voting Rights Act, according to written arguments filed today with the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Shelby County's case alleges that Section 5 threatens state sovereignty by forcing every city and county in covered areas to get permission to move a polling place or redraw district lines, for example. The areas were singled out by Congress 47 years ago because of their record of blatant discrimination against blacks at the ballot box. Such racism is history now, the states argue.

    "Section 5 served a noble purpose, and America is a freer and better place for it," states the brief filed by Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. "But Congress's refusal to amend the statute after this court identified its infirmities (in a Texas case) ... means that this court is the last and only branch of the federal government that can defend the state's coequal sovereignty."

    Alaska, which has its own lawsuit challenging Section 5's constitutionality, filed a separate brief supporting Shelby County's petition. It says that state's unique geography and small population require nimble election procedures to best accommodate voters. -- Read the whole story --> Seven states backing Shelby County in appeal of voting rights case to the U.S. Supreme Court |

    August 13, 2012

    Alabama Black Legislatative Caucus sues over legislative redistricting

    The Birmingham News reports: The Legislative Black Caucus and other black Alabama office holders filed a lawsuit in federal court this morning to try to block implementation of new legislative redistricting plan.

    The lawsuit claims that the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate redistricting plans dilute minority voting strength, violate the principle of "one person, one vote" and unnecessarily and illegally split Alabama counties among multiple legislative district.

    "The lawsuits asks the federal court to declare these two plans unconstitutional and order the Legislature to start over," said James Blacksher, a lawyer representing plaintiffs.

    The lawsuit echoes complaints during the legislative session that the Republican majority was "stacking and packing" minority districts with more and more black voters and thereby reducing black voters' influence outside of minority districts. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Legislative Black Caucus files lawsuit over redistricting plans (video) |

    Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for plaintiffs.

    June 29, 2012

    Lawsuit claims new GOP candidate did not file reports on time

    The Huntsville Times ( reports: Less than a week after an Alabama Republican Party committee selected Linda Coats to be the party's nominee for a Madison County district court judgeship, a group of lawyers has filed a complaint seeking Coats' disqualification.

    Coats was selected last Saturday from a field of seven candidates after the original nominee, Chris Messervy, was disqualified for failing to file a campaign finance disclosure form on time. That complaint was filed by two Coats' supporters.

    Under Alabama law, a candidate cannot be certified as a nominee or election winner if they fail to file financial disclosures on schedule. ...

    The complaint alleges Coats did not file a statement of economic interests and a disclosure statement of financial interests with the clerk of the Alabama Supreme Court. The complaint notes that under the state's canons of judicial ethics, judge candidates are supposed to submit the filings within 10 days of qualifying to run for office. -- Read the whole story --> Lawyers file complaint seeking to have new GOP judge nominee Linda Coats disqualified |

    June 3, 2012

    Supreme Court could announce its decision to hear Siegelman case Monday

    The Birmingham News reports: The U.S. Supreme Court might decide as early as Monday whether to accept or reject former Gov. Don Siegelman's request that the justices hear his appeal.

    If they accept, Siegelman and his at­torneys could be standing before the justices later this year arguing that prosecutors incorrectly twisted a regu­lar political contribution into a bribery scheme, posing a criminal threat to all elected officials and their donors.

    If they deny, Siegelman is likely headed back to court in Alabama, where his re-sentencing has been de­layed while his appeal has been pend­ing.

    Siegelman's request, along with one by HealthSouth found Richard Scru­shy, was reviewed by the justices Thursday, according to the court's re­cord, which means Monday is the ear­liest possible day for them to an­nounce whether they want to hear the case. Either way, the outcome could have a far-reaching impact on how public corruption is investigated and prosecuted across the country. -- Read the whole article --> US Supreme Court might accept or reject ex-Gov. Don Siegelman's appeal as early as Monday |

    May 19, 2012

    Shelby County loses its challenge against Voting Rights Act

    The Birmingham News reports: The section of the Voting Rights Act that requires the federal government to scrutinize election procedures in all or part of 16 states, including Alabama, was upheld by a 2-1 decision released today by a federal appeals court in Washington D.C.

    Shelby County had challenged Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as an outdated burden on local governments that are no longer a threat to rights of minority voters. But in the 63-page opinion, the two judges of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia said Congress acted properly when it renewed the historic voting rights law in 2006.

    "But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered and acted pursuant to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote--surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution--is not abridged on account of race. In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people's elected representatives," according to the opinion. -- Read the whole story --> Shelby County loses appeal; Voting Rights Act is upheld by federal court |

    The decision is available at the Lawyers' Committee site.

    March 24, 2012

    Bert Jordan will not be disbarred

    The Birmingham News reports: Albert Jordan won a victory today in his effort to avoid disciplinary action by the Alabama State Bar over his misdemeanor convictions for helping then-Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward illegally access voters' criminal records in a contest of the 1998 sheriff's race outcome.

    The Alabama Supreme Court withdrew its ruling in December that then said one of the federal crimes the Birmingham lawyer was convicted of committing was considered serious enough to be considered in bar proceedings to suspend Jordan's law license or disbar him.

    Instead the court majority, including two specially appointed judges, ruled today that neither of Jordan's convictions could be considered "serious crimes" under state bar disciplinary rules. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham lawyer's conviction over 1998 sheriff's race not enough to suspend, disbar, Alabama justices rule |

    March 11, 2012

    "Alabama public corruption trials focus on bribes vs. donations"

    The Birmingham News reports: Campaign contributions are the lifeblood of politics. But when exactly does a campaign contribution be­come a bribe? That's been a central question in the state's last two major public corruption trials as prosecutors ac­cused public officials of swapping donations for offi­cial actions. Defense law­yers say the line is fuzzy be­tween what is legal and what is not and say they hope the U.S. Supreme Court will review the bribery conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and offer up some clarity.

    But others say that, if the line is drawn too tightly, then it would be nearly im­possible to prosecute poli­ticians for trading official actions for donations. ...

    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in upholding Sie­gelman's conviction on the bribery charge, found that, while there has to be an ex­plicit agreement to swap money and action, it doesn't have to be verbalized. Jurors are free to interpret the ac­tions of defendants in deter­mining whether there was a corrupt deal, the court ruled.

    Siegelman's lawyers have argued that loose standards and lack of clarity from the courts are dangerous and could lead to overzealous prosecutions. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama public corruption trials focus on bribes vs. donations |

    March 2, 2012

    Amicus briefs supporting Siegelman cert petition filed

    Rick Hasen comments on and links to two important "friend of the court" briefs filed in the Siegelman case in the U.S. Supreme Court. See Powerful Amicus Briefs Supporting Cert. in Siegelman Case | Election Law Blog.

    February 25, 2012

    DOJ sues Alabama over overseas absentee ballots

    Justice Department Announces Lawsuit to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Alabama: The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama and its chief election official seeking relief to help ensure that military servicemembers, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in Alabama's March 13, 2012, federal primary election.

    The lawsuit, brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was filed in federal district court in Montgomery, Ala. The suit alleges that the state failed to transmit absentee ballots to many of Alabama's eligible military and overseas voters for the March 13, 2012, primary election in sufficient time for those voters to receive, cast and return their ballots in time to be counted. It also alleges that state procedures are inadequate to ensure that such voters can participate fully in the state's April 24, 2012, primary run-off election, should one be necessary. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the state to take all steps necessary to ensure that all affected UOCAVA voters are afforded a full opportunity to participate in the upcoming federal primary elections and all future federal elections.

    February 3, 2012

    Shelby County challenge to Section 5 might be closer to Supreme Court

    The Birmingham News reports: The chances that Shelby County's challenge to the Voting Rights Act will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court have improved since the Justice Department announced it is rethinking its position in a similar North Carolina case.

    In a Jan. 30 letter to a lawyer for Kinston, NC., the assistant attorney general for civil rights said the agency has new information and will reconsider its 2009 objection to the city's switch to nonpartisan elections. Assuming the Justice Department formally withdraws that objection, Kinston's related lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act goes away.

    Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California Irvine's School of Law, said in an email that he believes the move would clear a path for the Shelby County, Ala., case to be the one that puts the Section 5 issue before the Supreme Court. Another possible appeal involving the voter identification law in South Carolina is also a contender. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Department move might propel Shelby County, Ala., voting case to U.S. Supreme Court |

    January 15, 2012

    Three small political parties sue Alabama re ballot access

    The Green Party, the Constitution Party, and the Libertarian Party, along with several voters and a Green Party presidential candidate, have filed suit against the Alabama law requiring unqualified parties to qualify by submitting petitions containing at least 3% of the voters in the last general election, and the petitions must be filed by the day of the first primary. Because of the change from having separate presidential and non-presidential primaries to having one primary on 13 March, the parties will have to qualify 8 months before the general election.

    Information on the plaintiffs' attorney Dan Johnson is available on his firm's website.

    The complaint is reproduced below:

    Stein v. Chapman Complaint

    Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for the tip.

    January 9, 2012

    Birthers lose one and file another

    The Birmingham News reports: About the same time Jefferson County Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee was dismissing a Birmingham man's lawsuit challenging President Obama's right to be on Alabama ballots, Lee was assigned a new suit seeking an injunction against state party officials.

    The new suit, filed today in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Harold Sorensen of Luverne, also contends Obama is ineligible to serve as president and should be barred from Alabama ballots.

    "In 2008, the (Democratic National Committee) certified an ineligible candidate, Barack Obama, and thus defrauded the American people," Sorenson wrote in his lawsuit. "This was a violation of the basic voter's rights and Obama's subsequent usurpation constitutes the greatest crime ever perpetrated against the American people."

    Civil cases are randomly assigned, and Sorenson's suit wound up with the same judge who this morning dismissed a suit by Albert E. Hendershot.

    In a hearing this morning, a lawyer for the state Democratic Party chairman argued that Hendershot had not shown a specific violation of his rights that a court could protect. State law and court precedent also say the judiciary has no business telling the political parties who they can list as candidates, the lawyer, Barry Ragsdale argued in this morning's hearing on the Hendershot case. -- Read the whole story -->

    September 14, 2011

    Alabama AG files suit for preclearance of legislative lines

    The AP reports:
    Attorney General Luther Strange has asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to approve new lines for congressional districts and for the state school board rather than seeking approval from the U.S. Justice Department.

    The attorney general's office filed a complaint Friday asking a three-judge panel to approve the new political boundaries drawn earlier this year by the Alabama Legislature. -- Read the whole report --> Attorney General Strange asks court to OK redistricting plan | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    August 1, 2011

    "Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe"

    The Birmingham News reports: The vote-buying trial that could be nearing an end in federal court here has cast a spotlight on the line between supporting state lawmakers with campaign contributions and bribing them, say lawmakers outside the trial and others.

    They said the trial has raised the question of whether some lawmakers crossed the line into bribery by promising to vote for a gambling bill in return for contributions, and whether others crossed the line by offering contributions in return for a vote for the bill.

    Two state senators, two former state senators, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, two lobbyists and two other people have been on trial since June, accused of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with gambling legislation debated in the Legislature last year.

    Prosecutors and defense attorneys rested their cases last week. Closing arguments are expected Wednesday.

    Observers say the trial has provided yet more proof that politicians actively seek campaign contributions to buy the TV ads and other tools that build name recognition and improve election chances. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe |

    July 14, 2011

    Montgomery election not halted by suit

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A federal judge has denied a request to immediately halt Montgomery's election process so the City Council districts can be redrawn using the 2010 U.S. Census data, but the city is still expected to respond to the assertion that the Aug. 23 elec­tion should be delayed.

    Two plaintiffs, Gregory Graves, a resident of District 1, and Darryl Sinkfield, a resident of District 8, filed the motions and a complaint in federal court Monday. The Alabama Democratic Conference, which is championing the case, ar­gues that holding the election before reapportioning the dis­tricts leaves minority residents underrepresented and their votes diluted.

    Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said Wednesday that the city is merely following an ordinance, Act 6-18, that guides the city's general governance. -- Read the whole story --> Judge denies first motion in lawsuit to halt Montgomery municipal election | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    July 13, 2011

    Suit filed against Montgomery's lack of redistricting

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A statewide political organization wants a federal judge to delay the Montgomery municipal election so city officials can redraw the Montgomery City Council districts to reflect the 2010 U.S. Census data.

    Voters are slated to elect a mayor and members of the City Council on Aug. 23. Some months after the election, the mayor and City Council will officially reapportion the districts, meaning some residents will ultimately be represented by a councilperson who they did not have the option of voting for on election day.

    The plaintiffs for the lawsuit are Gregory Graves, a resident of District 1, and Darryl Sinkfield, a resident of District 8, but the two men appear to be agents of the Alabama Democratic Conference. The mayor, the city clerk and all the City Council members are listed as defendants.

    By not redrawing the lines before the election, the ADC contends the minority votes in some council districts are diluted and the minority residents are left underrepresented. And, as ADC Chairman Joe Reed said, "the evil goes on." -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Democratic Conference wants Montgomery municipal elections delayed | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    The complaint:
    Complaint Graves v. Montgomery

    July 12, 2011

    GOP attacks ADC's suit against PAC-to-PAC ban

    The Birmingham News reports: Republican leaders today denounced a federal lawsuit filed by the Alabama Democratic Conference challenging last year's ban on transferring campaign money between political action committees.

    Alabama House of Representatives Speaker Mike Hubbard and Alabama Senate President Del Marsh issued the joint statement stating that the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban was a critical component of a series of anti-corruption reforms passed in special session and signed into law by then-Gov. Bob Riley in December.

    The statement notes that the bill passed without opposition in both houses of the Legislature. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama GOP leaders denounce lawsuit filed by ADC over PAC-to-PAC transfer ban |

    June 29, 2011

    Campaigning, country music and ... bingo

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley said Monday he offered to pay for high-priced campaign events featuring top country music talent like Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire that could raise $500,000 if the state senators he reached out to supported legislation that would help casinos in the state. One of those senators, Wendell Mitchell, was ill, but Gilley pushed a campaign consultant to get him to the Senate that day for a vote.

    Gilley also said, on conversations secretly recorded by the FBI, that he was using country stars Randy Owen of Alabama and Jamey Johnson to call senators and push them to vote for the pro-gambling legislation. Owen, who Gilley said was like an ambassador for the project, is a potential witness in the case.

    Prosecutors also, in the ongoing federal corruption trial, played a secretly recorded conversation in which a lobbyist for Gilley said Sen. Larry Means is shaking them down and wants $100,000 for his vote.

    Means, a former Democratic state senator from Attalla, is one of nine defendants in the federal corruption case that accuses gambling interests of bribing state legislators to support pro-gambling legislation.
    -- Read the whole story --> Gilley says he offered campaign events featuring country musicians | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    June 21, 2011

    Former Montgomery judge indicted on 74 charges

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Just days after Patricia Warner suddenly stepped down as a family court judge, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary issued a 74-charge complaint that accused her of taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from gambling interests and then deciding questionably in a child custody case involving VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor's daughter.

    The complaint also mentioned that 27 of 29 of her cases that were appealed were reversed.

    Much of the complaint involved the case of McGregor's daughter in which Warner refused to recuse herself even after the Judicial Inquiry Commission advised her that she should do so for cases in which someone involved in the case has filed a complaint against a judge, and even after she recused herself in other cases where someone filed a complaint against her.

    During Warner's re-election campaign last year, the judge accepted $20,750 in campaign contributions from political action committees that were controlled by John Crawford, who is a lobbyist for McGregor and the father of Warner's staff attorney, according to the complaint. These contributions amounted to more than half of Warner's total campaign contributions last year. -- Read the whole article --> Warner accused in 74-charge complaint | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    June 14, 2011

    First day of testimony in bingo corruption trial

    The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor told a state senator last year that he would never regret it if he voted for a gambling bill because McGregor had a habit of supporting friends.

    The comment was caught on a recording that Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, made as casino owners courted his vote for a gambling bill and that was played Monday to jurors in the State House vote-buying case.

    Beason testified Monday that he believed casino interests were offering to buy his vote. He also said Sen. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb, assured him in an earlier conversation that gambling interests would give him $500,000 for a statewide race.

    "You need some new friends ... and we've got a bad habit of supporting our friends," McGregor tells Beason in one of the recordings played in court.

    McGregor and eight others are on trial on charges of buying and selling votes on a gambling bill in 2010. They are accused of offering legislators campaign contributions, a job and re-election assistance in exchange for yes votes on the legislation. -- Read the whole story --> McGregor on tape in the Alabama bingo trial: 'We don't forget our friends' |

    June 11, 2011

    Bribes or campaign contributions: federal jury to decide in Montgomery

    The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor is a wealthy man, but he got greedy and bribed state legislators in the hopes of making hundreds of millions more dollars for himself, a federal prosecutor told jurors Friday.

    Justin V. Shur told jurors in opening statements of the highly anticipated corruption trial that McGregor and the other defendants bought and sold State House votes in exchange for campaign contributions and business opportunities. ...

    Prosecutors and defense lawyers in their opening statements painted contrasting pictures of the defendants and campaign contributions at the heart of the case.

    The defendants alternately were described as greedy criminals and honest, upstanding business people. What prosecutors told jurors were bribes and conspiracy, defense lawyers described as legal campaign contributions and legitimate political maneuvering. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial revolves around greed, US says |

    May 28, 2011

    Charges reinstated against former Ala. Sec of State

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A state appeals court reinstated five felony charges Friday against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley for a second time.

    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 4-0 ruling that said prosecutors presented enough evidence for the charges to stand against the former Democratic officeholder.

    The decision means Worley's four-year legal battle is far from over. Her attorney, James Anderson, said he would ask the court to reconsider, and if it doesn't, she would appeal to the state Supreme Court for a second time.

    The charges stem from a campaign letter, contribution envelope and bumper sticker that Worley sent to five employees in the secretary of state's office during her unsuccessful race for re-election in 2006. -- Read the whole story --> Court reinstates charges against Worley | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    May 11, 2011

    Alabama: 2 counts against Siegelman and Schrushy

    The Birmingham News reports: A lawyer for former Gov. Don Siegelman said the governor will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if needed following the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision today upholding most of his conviction in a government corruption case.

    The 11th Circuit after reviewing the case for a second time upheld five of the counts against Siegelman and four against former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. ...

    Among other problems, defense lawyers argued prosecutors could not show the two men had a conversation or other direct communication in which they agreed to swap the appointment for the money.

    Without requiring such direct proof, prosecutors are free to infer a bribery situation anytime a donor receives some favorable action, Heldman said,

    "I continue to think they are wrong about where the line is drawn between campaign contributions and crimes. I believe they've set a standard that, if applied to everyone, would mean our jails would be overflowing," Heldman said.

    The judges said they found no reversible error on that point. -- Read the whole story --> Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman may ask Supreme Court to review case, attorney says |

    March 18, 2011

    Alabama: federal judge grants injunction against law which would stop AEA from dues collection through payroll deduction

    The Huntsville Times reports: A federal judge issued a temporary injunction this afternoon halting a new state law that could potentially cripple a statewide teachers' organization.

    U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith issued the injunction against a law passed by the Alabama Legislature in December that bans school employees from having their Alabama Education Association membership dues directly deducted from their paychecks. The law was to go into effect on Sunday.

    Dr. Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of AEA, said the organization had been hoping for a ruling on the injunction before the law goes into effect.

    "Once the law goes into effect, we will lose January dues, which are collected in February," Hubbert said shortly before the ruling was filed. "We may also lose February dues, collected in March. A couple of months' worth of loss makes it hard to operate." Hubbert could not be reached immediately after the filing. -- Read the whole story --> Federal judge halts ban on payroll deduction to Alabama Education Association |

    Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys representing the AEA. A copy of the opinion is shown below:

    AEA v. Bentley, Memo Opinion on Prelim Injuction

    March 17, 2011

    Wilcox County, Alabama: vote-buying charge

    WSFA-TV reports: The Chairman of the Wilcox County Board of Education has been indicted by a grand jury on the charge of vote buying.

    According to District Attorney Michael Jackson, Clifford "Don" Twilley, the Chairman of the Wilcox County Board of Education was indicted by a Wilcox County Grand Jury for vote buying. ...

    The charge stems from an investigation into Twilley's conduct in the June 2010 elections in Wilcox County. -- Read the whole story --> Board of Ed. Chairman indicted for Vote Buying | Crime | Wilcox County News

    February 28, 2011

    Alabama: AEA sues over payroll deduction of dues

    Courthouse News Service reports: Alabama's lame-duck governor called a special session at which he rammed through an unconstitutional law, under the guise of "ethics reform," which prohibits teachers from allowing automatic payroll deductions for union dues, and makes union members criminally liable if such dues or PAC contributions are used for "phone calling for any political purpose," or "distributing political literature of any type," the Alabama Education Association claims in Huntsville Federal Court.
    The AEA and its political action committee, A-Vote, sued Alabama's new governor, Robert Bentley, who also serves as president of the State Board of Education. Individual teachers joined as plaintiffs and named top state officials as co-defendants, including the state superintendent of education, the comptroller, the state finance director, two county district attorneys and three local school boards. Read the whole story --> Courthouse News Service

    February 20, 2011

    Shelby County, Alabama: the supplemental briefing

    The Birmingham News reports: A decision on whether key sections of the Voting Rights Act remain constitutional 47 years after it was passed may hinge on whether it was appropriate for Congress not to update which parts of the country still need close federal oversight of their elections.

    Although the lawyers finished arguing the case earlier this month, the federal judge asked for more written comments on the specific issue of coverage formula, or the method used in 1965 to determine which states were the worst threats to minority voting rights.

    It signals that U.S. District Judge John Bates is focused on Shelby County's contention that the law's 2006 renewal by Congress is invalid because it relied on outdated voting data.

    Shelby County sued the U.S. Justice Department, alleging that Congress did not have enough evidence to warrant a 25-year extension of the law that requires all or part of 16 states -- including Alabama -- to ask permission before making any voting-related changes. The Alabama case is widely viewed as a contender to return the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. -- Read the whole story --> Shelby County's lawsuit over the Voting Rights Act could turn on 2006 renewal |

    February 13, 2011

    Alabama: Jerome Gray's quiet civil-right career

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Unlike his contemporaries who took to the streets to pro­test racial inequities, Jerome Gray opted to use his organiza­tional skills and quiet persever­ance to do the same thing.

    In fact, the 72-year-old former field director for the Alabama Democratic Conference may have done more for racial equality at the ballot box than thousands of vocal protesters.

    He did it by using the court system instead of the streets to work toward single member voting districts as well as black registrars and black poll work­ers.

    Each of the legal challenges ended successfully, but few out­side of Alabama's small civil rights community are familiar with the name or, for that mat­ter, the fame of one of the most important architects of those campaigns. -- Read the whole story --> Voting rights activist now ready to finally finish book | | Montgomery Advertiser

    February 3, 2011

    Shelby County: VRA challenge argued

    The Birmingham News reports: Lawyers for Shelby County asked a federal judge in Washington today to declare two key parts of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional because Congress relied on old voting statistics when it extended the historic civil rights law for another 25 years.

    The case, likely to wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, attracted a big crowd as lawyers debated whether certain parts of the country, including Alabama, would backslide into endangering the rights of minority voters if the Justice Department were no longer looking over their shoulder. All or part of 16 states have been subject to federal oversight since 1965, and the formula for how those states were chosen was based on voter registration and turnout statistics from that time. -- Read the whole story --> Shelby County voting rights case debated in Washington courtroom |

    January 31, 2011

    Shelby County: VRA challenge argument in DC

    The Birmingham News reports: Shelby County will be at the forefront of the national debate over whether minorities, especially in the South, still face discrimination at the ballot box when a judge this week hears the county's arguments that parts of the Voting Rights Act are obsolete.

    The politically conservative and mostly white suburban county south of Birmingham is the latest to take a crack at the 46-year-old federal law as an outdated burden that Congress had no business extending for another 25 years.

    Others have tried to prove that part of the historic civil rights law is no longer necessary because of advances in race relations, but a definitive answer on its constitutionality has not been forthcoming.

    So now it's Shelby County's turn. Financially backed by a nonprofit legal defense fund, the county is asking a federal judge to declare two key sections of the law unconstitutional. If the county's argument is successful, it would strike down the federal government's main tool for policing local and state elections for discrimination, intentional or not.
    -- Read the whole story --> Shelby County will be at forefront of challenge to Voting Rights Act |

    November 25, 2010

    Shelby County: summary of DOJ and amicus arguments

    The Birmingham News reports: The U.S. Justice Department and civil rights advocates representing black voters in Shelby County have asked a federal judge to uphold the historic Voting Rights Act as a fair and still-necessary deterrent to bias at the ballot box.

    "Unchecked racial discrimination in voting erodes our Constitution's promise of equality, sharply undermines the integrity of our democratic processes, and imposes significant harms on our citizens and nation," the groups wrote recently in a joint court filing.

    Shelby County sued the Justice Department earlier this year, alleging two key sections of the Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional because Congress did not have enough evidence of blatant government discrimination against blacks to warrant the law's extension.

    The conservative, strongly Republican county south of Birmingham is taking the stand on its own behalf and the behalf of others in the South who say the law has outlived its usefulness and is burdensome to taxpayers. Read the whole article --> Voting Rights Act still vital, representatives of Shelby County blacks tell judge |

    October 30, 2010

    Alabama: suit to remove Bentley from ballot dismissed

    The Birmingham News reports: A lawsuit aimed at tossing Republican Robert Bentley off next week's general election ballot was itself tossed Friday by a Jefferson County judge.

    Circuit Judge Nicole "Nikki" Still ruled that Alabama law does not give her jurisdiction to remove Bentley from the ballot or jurisdiction to halt next Tuesday's election while a replacement for Bentley is found.

    The lawsuit was brought by former Birmingham City Council member Dr. Jimmy Blake.

    Blake had contended that Bentley had knowingly violated the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act by failing to disclose on financial reports filed July 8 that the Alabama Education Association had contributed almost $22,000 to his campaign by picking up the cost of a series of automatic telephone messages. Bentley placed the messages to a half-million would-be voters days before the July 13 GOP runoff election between himself and Bradley Byrne. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit to boot Alabama gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley off ballot dismissed |

    October 28, 2010

    Alabama: Bentley returning contributions, faces suit to disqualify

    AP reports that Dr. Robert Bentley has returned excess contributions to 8 corporations after a complaint from Dr. Jimmy Blake, former Birmingham city council member.

    Blake has also filed suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court seeking to disqualify Bentley on the basis of his failure to report an in-kind contribution from the Alabama Education Association. The AEA made robo-calls for Bentley when he was in the Republican runoff.

    October 27, 2010

    Pike Co, Ala: suspended sentence for election fraud

    The Troy Messenger reports: Former Pike County Commissioner Karen Berry?s plea arrangement netted her a sentence without jail time for a felony conviction of absentee ballot fraud and first-degree perjury.

    In a sentence handed down Tuesday by Judge Thomas Head, Berry was given two-year concurrent suspended sentences on each charge and two years? probation. She also must pay court costs and $100 in Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission Assessment, said District Attorney Gary McAliley.

    Both of Berry's crimes were class C felonies, which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 for each crime. Other than these two felony convictions, McAliley said Berry's record was clean, which helped her case, McAliley said. ...

    In the November 2008 general election, Berry submitted or authorized the submission of ballots she knew were improperly signed and not witnessed by a notary, according to court documents. She won the seat for County Commission against her opponent, Oren Fannin, by just six ballots. -- Read the whole story --> Berry gets suspended sentence | The Troy Messenger

    October 21, 2010

    Pike Co., Ala: former commissioner arrested for absentee-ballot fraud

    The Troy Messenger reports: Former County Commissioner Karen Berry has been charged with voter fraud and perjury in connection with her 2008 bid for office.

    Berry turned herself in to the Pike County Jail Tuesday on charges of absentee ballot fraud and first-degree perjury. According to information from the District Attorney, she has reached a plea agreement on the charges, although the agreement has yet to be presented to a judge. ...

    According to information from the police report, Berry submitted or authorized the submission of ballots she knew were improperly signed and not witnessed by a notary in the November 2008 general election.

    In April 2009, Berry lied in court while under oath regarding the obtaining, submitting, signing and witnessing of the ballots, the report states. -- Read the whole article --> Berry charged with vote fraud, perjury | The Troy Messenger

    September 11, 2010

    Alabama: former Sec of State wins in Ala Supreme Court

    The Huntsville Times reports: The state Supreme Court today handed former Secretary of State Nancy Worley a victory in her battle to overturn five felony charges that accuse her of using her office to influence the votes of five employees in her office in 2006.

    The high court said the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not reviewing the evidence under the same conditions that Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman M. Hobbs Jr., did when he threw out the charges. ...

    The felony charges against Worley stemmed from a law that forbids a public official from using his or her authority or position to try to influence the vote or political action of anyone.

    The charges against Worley grew out of campaign letters, campaign contribution envelopes and bumper stickers sent to the five workers.

    In her letter -- on campaign stationery -- Worley wrote, "I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle's bumper or rear window." She also wrote that "if you chose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me." Read the whole story --> Ex-secretary of state Nancy Worley wins victory in state Supreme Court ruling |

    Shelby County: VRA challenged argued in DC

    The Birmingham News reports: Shelby County is intent on having key sections of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional and ending federal oversight of elections across the South, not just in one Alabama county, the county's lawyers said Friday.

    In a case that everyone in the Washington, D.C., courtroom seemed to agree was destined for the U.S. Supreme Court, lawyers for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Shelby County argued over whether the judge should take into account the Alabama county's voting rights history in deciding whether the 45-year-old law, renewed by Congress four years ago, remains constitutional.

    The difference could be significant. Justice Department lawyers said the judge may not have to decide whether the law is constitutional if the government determines that the county qualifies for a bailout so that it can be excused from having to get its election-related changes blessed by Washington. ...

    But a lawyer for Shelby County told U.S. District Judge John Bates that the county was not asking for a bailout. William Consovoy, representing Shelby County, argued that the only evidence the judge should consider is the record Congress compiled before deciding to renew the law in 2006. The 21,000 pages includes testimony about jurisdictions that have run afoul of the law in recent years, which Congress relied upon in extending the law for another 25 years. Read the whole story --> Federal judge hears early arguments in Shelby County challenge to Voting Rights Act |

    September 9, 2010

    Mobile: independent candidate allowed on the ballot despite challenge to residency

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: In dismissing a case filed by state Rep. James Buskey, Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout cleared the way for Rashawn Figures to appear as a candidate for House District 99 on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

    Figures is running as an independent.

    Earlier this year, Buskey, D-Mobile, disputed Figures? qualifications to run as a Democrat, and state party officials agreed. Figures? name was removed from the June 1 Democratic primary ballot.

    Figures appealed to Secretary of State Beth Chapman, who certified him to run as an independent in the general election.

    Buskey then sued in circuit court, seeking to have Figures? name struck from the ballot. ...

    Last week, Cecil Gardner, Buskey’s lawyer, argued that Figures lived at a west Mobile residence beyond the time required to be a resident of District 99. Read the whole story --> Suit seeking removal of Rashawn Figures from ballot dismissed by judge |

    August 1, 2010

    Alabama: black voters file Section 5 case over Gov. Riley cancelling their votes (complaint attached)

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: Local politicians in Greene and Macon counties have joined to file a federal lawsuit claiming that Gov. Bob Riley's bingo raids are perpetuating racial injustice by thwarting the intent of black voters.

    The suit, filed Thursday, was intended to reopen Greenetrack and avoid a raid at Victory-Land in Macon County. The raid appears imminent after the state Supreme Court on Friday gave the governor's anti-gambling task force a green light.

    Voting rights lawyer Ed Still is one of several attorneys who filed the lawsuit over the June raid and confiscation of more than 800 bingo machines from the Greenetrack bingo casino in Greene County.

    Still said on Friday that Riley never got clearance from the U.S. Justice Department to take action against Greene and Macon counties, which have local constitutional amendments approved by voters authorizing bingo.

    The lawsuit's premise is simple: Riley's actions reversed voter intentions in both counties, effectively canceling their votes. Read the whole story --> Suit claims bingo raids thwart black voters |

    Johnson v. Riley (Voting Rights Act Complaint)

    July 22, 2010

    Alabama: suit filed to block enforcement of law on campaign contributions

    The Birmingham News reports: A 15-year-old Alabama law that says judges should not hear cases in which one of the parties donated at least $2,000 to their campaigns has never been enforced, locked in a stalemate over whether it first needs to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice for evidence that it would not disenfranchise minorities.

    A lawsuit filed this week in Washington by an Anniston City Council member tries to settle the question, but it also raises more questions about how an act of the Alabama Legislature can essentially be ignored for so long.

    The 1995 law says that a circuit judge who received at least $2,000 from one of the people involved in the case -- or $4,000 for an appellate judge -- must recuse himself in order to avoid the "appearance of impropriety."

    Soon after it was passed, the Alabama attorney general's office submitted the law to the Department of Justice, which normally reviews all changes to Alabama's election laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. But before the Justice Department could make a decision, the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, withdrew the request for review and notified Washington that the state would enforce the new law and that it didn't need preclearance from the DOJ. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit seeks Justice Department review of unenforced 15-year-old state law |

    A copy of the complaint is shown below:

    Little v. King Complaint

    July 9, 2010

    Alabama: candidate may face criminal prosecution

    The Troy Messenger reports: Pike County District Attorney Gary McAliley said further legal action will be taken against former commissioner Karen Berry "one way or another." ...

    Berry was removed from office in October 2009 when a Pike County Circuit Court ruling deemed she won the November 2008 illegally. The case was brought by her opponent now commissioner Oren Fannin who had lost by just six votes. Judge Joel Holley, who ruled in the case, declared that 10 votes cast for Berry were done so illegally.

    Also during the course of the trial, allegations of potential voter fraud and perjury were brought forth. At one point Holley declared in court: "Someone here today has committed perjury." Read the whole story --> Troy Messenger | McAliley: Berry to be prosecuted

    May 14, 2010

    Alabama: suit to remove Supreme Court candidate heard

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Attorneys for incumbent Alabama Supreme Court Judge Tom Parker argued Thursday that one of his opponents in the Republican primary should be struck from the ballot.

    Attorney Al Agricola Jr., ar­gued before Montgomery Coun­ty Circuit Court Judge William Shashy that Eric Johnston's name should be removed from state ballots before the Republi­can primary because Johnston missed key filing deadlines.

    The suit contends that John­ston was late in filing both an economic interest statement with the Alabama Ethics Com­mission and a campaign finance report with the secretary of state, but that Secretary of State Beth Chapman still put him on the ballot.

    Johnston, a Birmingham at­torney, filed his candidate quali­fication papers with the Alaba­ma State Republican Executive Committee to run for the Place 3 seat on the Alabama Supreme Court on April 1. Read the whole article --> Judge asked to remove court candidate from ballot | | Montgomery Advertiser

    May 5, 2010

    Alabama: Tom Parker sues to remove one opponent from the ballot

    Doc's Political Parlor reports: Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker not only is running for re-election (we weren't so sure in late March, but then he did qualify on time), he wants a fellow Republican kicked off the primary ballot. And now.

    Parker sued challenger Eric Johnston (amongst others) in Montgomery County Circuit Court Friday, alleging Johnston filed ethics and financial disclosures too long after qualifying as a candidate for his name to be certified for the primary ballot. From my read, the suit might just come down to the definition of "day." Read the whole story and download the complaint --> Alabama Politics in Doc's Political Parlor

    April 29, 2010

    Texas: DeLay's trial delayed no longer

    TPMMuckraker reports: Five years after he was charged with conspiracy and money laundering in an alleged scheme to funnel corporate money into the 2002 Texas elections, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may soon stand trial after a ruling by a state appeals court cleared perhaps the final remaining obstacles in the case. ...

    DeLay and the two other men allegedly raised $190,000 in corporate money in Texas through a fundraising committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and sent it the Republican National Committee, which in turn distributed the money to candidates in Texas, where corporate donations are banned.

    Overturning a lower court Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in a case brought by DeLay's two co-defendants, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, clearing the way for the case to move forward. Read the whole story --> DeLay Money Laundering Case May Finally Be Headed To Trial | TPMMuckraker

    April 28, 2010

    Alabama: Candidate, indicted for failure to file campaign report, claims others did it too

    The Talladega Daily Home reports: A city schools board member was recently indicted on charges of campaign form violations.

    But several other officials, including candidates for Alabama governor and state school board members, may have made one of the same violations.

    Troy "Skip" Smithwick was charged January 29 with failure to file annual campaign contribution reports and improper reporting of contributions. Both charges are Class B misdemeanors under state law.

    Smithwick's attorney, Rod Giddens, has filed motions on his behalf to dismiss the claims based on "selective prosecution." Read the whole story including names of late filers --> The Daily Home - Smithwick defends allegations

    February 23, 2010

    5 national party committees sued for return of Allen Stanford contributions

    Peter Overby reports on All Things Considered: A court-appointed officer in Dallas has sued national party committees, both Democratic and Republican, to recover campaign contributions from indicted financier R. Allen Stanford. The money at stake totals $1.6 million.

    The officer, known as a receiver, says the money belongs to investors who were allegedly defrauded by Stanford. The disgraced financier is accused of using their money in a Ponzi scheme instead of investing it. ...

    The SEC froze Stanford's assets a year ago, well before the Justice Department indicted him. The SEC also asked the federal district court in Dallas to appoint the receiver, who's responsible for recovering other money that Stanford had thrown around in his high-flying lifestyle. -- Read or listen to the whole story --> Courts Seek To Recover Stanford's Political Pledges : NPR

    February 2, 2010

    Alabama: grand jury indicts candidate for late campaign disclosure and false statement on form

    The Daily Home reports: City Schools Board Member Troy ?Skip? Smithwick was indicted on two counts relating to campaign contributions by a Talladega County Grand Jury.

    A spokesperson for the Talladega County Sheriff?s Department said Smithwick was charged on Friday and released on a $5,000 bond. The two charges were failure to file annual reports and improper reporting of contributions.

    Both charges are Class B misdemeanors under state law.

    The indictment stems from an investigation into contribution forms submitted by Smithwick during a 2008 campaign. That year, he ran in the Republican primary for the District 3 State School Board seat.

    Under state law, all candidates are required to submit their annual contribution reports no later than Jan. 31 of the following year. Smithwick?s final report was dated as received Oct. 6, 2009, by the Secretary of State. -- Read the whole story --> The Daily Home - Grand jury indicts BOE member Misdemeanor charges stem from failure to file campaign forms

    November 14, 2009

    Alabama: Charges against Worley reinstated

    The Huntsville Times reports: A state appeals court Friday reinstated five felony charges against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who is accused of using her office to influence the votes of five employees in her office.

    Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman M. Hobbs Jr. ruled on July 11, 2007, that the law under which Worley was indicted was "overly broad and unconstitutional" as applied in her case. ...

    The felony charges stemmed from a law forbidding a public official from using his or her authority or position to try to influence the vote or political action of anyone.

    The charges against Worley grew out of campaign letters, campaign contribution envelopes and bumper stickers sent to the five workers.

    In her letter - on campaign stationery - Worley wrote, "I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle's bumper or rear window." She also wrote that "if you chose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me." -- Read the whole article --> State appeals court reinstates5 felony charges against Worley -

    October 10, 2009

    Alabama: candidate files suit over 14-month delay in runoff

    The Gadsden Times reports: Evan Smith, a candidate in Cedar Bluff?s District One run-off election, filed a lawsuit in Cherokee County Circuit Court late afternoon Friday asking the court to issue an order to require the Cedar Bluff mayor and council to set a date for the election.

    “More than a year after the August 2008 general election and since this summer’s ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, the town of Cedar Bluff has still not held the run-off elections. The Town of Cedar Bluff is operating with a temporary mayor who is ill, and the people need a new mayor and a district one council person,” the lawsuit reads. It goes on to explain that under normal circumstances, state law requires a run-off election to be held on the sixth Tuesday following the regular election. It asks the court to expedite the case by declaring any previous stay of elections terminated and requiring the town to hold the elections as soon as possible. -- Read the whole story --> New Cedar Bluff suit filed | | Gadsden Times | Gadsden, AL

    October 3, 2009

    Alabama: Autauga Co. judge orders registration of rejected applicant

    The Prattville Progress reports: Autauga County Judge of Probate Al Booth granted this week a request for summary judgment from an 18-year-old woman whose voter registration applica­tion was denied in July, and ordered the county's board of registrars to immedi­ately add the woman's name to the coun­ty's list of registered voters.

    Booth's decree brought to a close a controversial rejection by registrars of a voter application form filed by Jasmine Dent, a resident student at Tuskegee Uni­versity who moved from Millbrook to Prattville shortly before she started classes.

    When Dent attempted on July 6 to reg­ister to vote here, she inadvertently put her Elmore County address on the origi­nal application, then wadded the erro­neous registration form and tossed it into a trash can at the board of registrars office.

    She completed a second form, provid­ing the correct residency information, but Registrar Bobby Wise retrieved the original and noted on the second form that the document should not be approv­ed because it was "fraudulent," although he refused to specify upon what grounds his decision was based. Fellow registrar Joan Hamburger also signed off on the denial. -- Read the whole story --> :: Judge: Add woman to voter rolls

    September 26, 2009

    Alabama: rare appeal from denial of voter registration

    The Prattville Progress reports: An 18-year-old local woman whose voter registration application was reject­ed by county registrars because she inad­vertently listed her former address on the document, has appealed the decision to the Autauga County Judge of Probate.

    Judge Al Booth confirmed Thursday that his office had received a letter from Jasmine Dent, who asked that Booth overturn the board of registrar's deci­sion that listed her attempt at joining lo­cal voter rolls as a "fraudulent" applica­tion. ...

    Booth did provide a requested copy of the Sept. 4 letter, which requested a sum­mary judgment in her favor, based on the actions of board member Bobby Wise, who rejected the application on the basis of the incorrect address and telephone number Dent listed on her initial voter registration form.

    Dent, who filed an amended applica­tion minutes after Wise pointed out the inaccuracies, expressed on paper her be­lief that the registrar could have resolved the issue by allowing her to file a cor­rected form. -- Read the whole story at --> :: Appeal filed in voter application rejection

    September 24, 2009

    Alabama: lawsuit over 2008 Cedar Bluff election

    The Gadsden Times reports: A new lawsuit relating to the 2008 Cedar Bluff municipal elections was filed Wednesday in the Circuit Court of Cherokee County.

    The suit, filed by Evan Smith, is a complaint for declaratory, injunctive and other relief in regard to the fact that three of the candidates in the August 2008 election have not yet filed their financial reports (contributions and expenses) for 2008.

    The Fair Campaign Practices Act (Title 17-5 of the Alabama Code) requires a candidate to file an annual report listing donors who contribute more than $100 to the candidate’s campaign, the names of persons to whom expenditures more than $100 have been made, the grand total of receipts for the campaign during the year, the grand total of expenses during the year, the amount and nature of debts and obligations owed and how they were extinguished. -- Read the full article at --> Lawsuit related to 2008 Cedar Bluff elections filed

    September 15, 2009

    Alabama: 2 plead guilty to absentee voter fraud

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: Valada Paige Banks on Monday became the second woman charged with felony voter fraud in Hale County to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

    Banks, 46, received a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting to third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

    She will not have to spend any time in jail, but was placed on probation for two years by retired Chambers County Circuit Judge Howard Bryan, who was appointed to hear the case. She also was assessed $400 in court costs.

    Rosie Lyles, 68, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Aug. 31 and received a similar sentence. Both women were indicted in August 2007 on multiple felony counts of promoting illegal absentee voting during special elections in Hale County in 2004 and 2005. -- Read the whole story --> Hale County voter fraud defendant pleads guilty | | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL

    June 26, 2009

    Alabama: "Recusals delay ex-secretary of state's case"

    AP reports that the recusal of three members of (of five) on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has delayed the appeal of the State in former Secretary of State Nancy Worley's criminal case. Read the full story --> Recusals delay ex-secretary of state's case

    May 27, 2009

    New Hampshire: DOJ drops Tobin case

    TPMmuckraker reports: Has the New Hampshire phone-jamming case finally come to a quiet end?

    Federal prosecutors have dropped their case against former regional NRSC official James Tobin in connection with a GOP plot to jam the phone lines of the New Hampshire Democratic party on Election Day 2002, reports the Associated Press.

    Tobin had been acquitted of involvement in the plot -- for which two GOP consultants have served jail time -- but was being tried on new charges of lying to investigators. A court dismissed those charges, and last week an appeals court rejected prosecutors' appeal. --> Read the whole report at Feds Drop New Hampshire Phone-Jamming Case | TPMMuckraker

    May 20, 2009

    New Jersey: "E-Voting Machines on Trial"

    Danielle Citron writes on Concurring Opinions: On Monday, a New Jersey Superior Court wrapped up a fifteen-week trial in Gusciora v. Corzine. There, plaintiffs challenged New Jersey’s use of e-voting machines on the grounds that the machines cannot be trusted to count the votes accurately given how easily they can be hacked. The trial centered on security problems of the state’s 11,000 e-voting machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems. Plaintiffs argued that the machines are vulnerable to physical and digital attacks that could compromise elections. Expert witnesses in the case included Professor Andrew Appel from Princeton University, Dr. Roger Johnston of Argonne National Laboratory, and Professor Wayne Wolf of Georgia Institute of Technology, who testified that vote-stealing software could be installed by attackers without specialized training or expensive equipment. At trial, the experts demonstrated multiple hacks of the machines’ source code and user interface, attacks on the machines’ circuitry, and methods for bypassing New Jersey’s physical security measures. ---> Read the rest at E-Voting Machines on Trial

    May 16, 2009

    Alabama: election contest voided by state supreme court

    The Gadsden Times reports: In an opinion released Friday, all nine justices of the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee County Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction to decide the election contest case that evolved from the Cedar Bluff municipal election of Aug. 26, 2008.

    After the results were certified in Cedar Bluff's general election on Sept. 2, three candidates - two for council positions and one for mayor- filed a contest suit saying that absentee ballots were not handled properly and that those votes should not be counted. ...

    Justice Michael Bolin, in writing the court's opinion, said an election contest cannot be brought until a candidate is "declared elected" after a run-off election. In addition, he emphasized that an election contest cannot be brought in any court unless allowed by state statute.
    Bolin wrote, "It is well settled that the Legislature, by enacting Title 17-16-44, has restricted the jurisdiction of the circuit courts in regard to elections." -- Cedar Bluff election ruling overturned | | Gadsden Times | Gadsden, AL

    April 12, 2009

    Texas: GOP governors differ on the NAMUDNO case

    AP reports: Republican governors offer differing views on major voting rights case at Supreme Court -- Differing views in GOP on voting rights case | TPM News Pages

    Note: Because the AP is threatening legal action against those who quote from their stories, I will be mentioning fewer AP stories and will give no more than the headline.

    April 1, 2009

    "High Court to Weigh Relevance Of Voting Law in Obama Era"

    The Washington Post reports: America's next great battle over civil rights could hardly have a less controversial flash point: the benign decision to move the neighborhood polling place from Jack Stueber's garage to the local

    elementary school.

    But because Stueber's garage is in Texas, and because Texas once systematically discriminated against its black and Latino citizens, and because Congress wants to make sure that it never does again, elections in the handsome neighborhood called Canyon Creek are a federal issue.

    The Supreme Court will consider this month whether the neighborhood's tiny utility board should continue to be among the states and local governments that bear the Voting Rights Act's heaviest burden -- pre-clearance by federal authorities for even the smallest changes in election laws and procedures -- and whether Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 by extending the restrictions for 25 years.

    Each time the court has reviewed the law since it was first passed 44 years ago, it has agreed with Congress that the restrictions are warranted. But this time around, a question hangs over the case that is not found in law books:

    Is a law conceived in the time of Jim Crow still relevant in the age of Barack Obama? -- Supreme Court to Weigh Relevance of Voting Rights Act in Obama Era -

    March 25, 2009

    Texas: veteran VRA lawyers file amicus brief in NAMUDNO

    A group of veteran voting-rights attorneys lead by Julius Chambers, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Northwest Austin Municipal Unitily District v. Holder. The attorneys argue:

    In comparison to Appellant’s limited familiarity with elections, attorney amici collectively have more than 200 years of experience litigating voting rights cases in covered and non-covered jurisdictions throughout the country. This experience has led amici to recognize the persistent need for timely enforcement capable of deterring illegal voting schemes before they are implemented—a task for which caseby- case litigation under Section 2 is ill-suited, but for which Section 5 was designed.

    Were Section 5 unavailable, there would be a significant increase in the number of discriminatory voting changes that voters and jurisdictions would be forced to address through litigation. But Section 2 cannot substitute for the prophylactic function of Section 5. In practice, amici have seen Section 2 and Section 5 operate in the complementary fashion that Congress intended. Where minority voters in covered jurisdictions cannot find a lawyer or afford to pay one, Section 5 provides the means to redress new violations of their rights. And where minority voters are able to get their day in court, Section 5 provides the assurance that their hard-won and expensive battles will not have been fought in vain if a jurisdiction repeats similar violations.

    Too many discriminatory voting changes would remain unchallenged if Section 5 were invalidated. For individual minority voters, the cost and effort required to pursue Section 2 cases are great barriers to private enforcement, a problem made more acute by the small number of practitioners in covered jurisdictions who are willing and able to take such cases. This creates a perverse incentive—all too often realized—for officials to continue suspect practices because they know most voters cannot challenge them. In contrast, Section 5 serves as a deterrent to such practices.

    Amici’s lengthy experience in the voting rights arena shows the importance of Congress’s considered decision to reauthorize Section 5. Without it, minority voters will fail to realize the full promise of the Voting Rights Act.

    The amici include the following lawyers:James U. Blacksher, Armand Derfner, Anita Earls, Robert McDuff, Edward Still, and Ellis Turnage. The lawyers are represented by William D. Kissinger, Sujal J. Shah, Erin Shannon-Conroy, Perry M. Grossman, and Sarah L. Bishop of Bibgham McCutchen LLP.

    Government lawyer claims right to censor political-campaign books paid with corporate funds

    The New York Times reports: A quirky case about a slashing documentary attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton would not seem to be the most obvious vehicle for a fundamental re-examination of the interplay between the First Amendment and campaign finance laws.

    But by the end of an exceptionally lively argument at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, it seemed at least possible that five justices were prepared to overturn or significantly limit parts of the court’s 2003 decision upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which regulates the role of money in politics.

    Several of the court’s more conservative justices reacted with incredulity to a series of answers from a government lawyer about the scope of Congressional authority to limit political speech. The lawyer, Malcolm L. Stewart, said Congress has the power to ban political books, signs and Internet videos, if they are paid for by corporations and distributed not long before an election.

    Mr. Stewart added that there was no difference in principle between the 90-minute documentary about Mrs. Clinton, “Hillary: The Movie,” and a 30-second television advertisement.

    Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the government’s uncompromising position could have dire consequences for the McCain-Feingold law. -- Justices Consider Campaign Finance Law

    NPR's report is here.

    March 9, 2009

    North Carolina: Scotus decides Bartlett v. Strickland

    The Supreme Court has decided Bartlett v. Strickland, No. 07-689. The Justices divided 3-2-4.

    The Three (Kennedy, C.J. Roberts, and Alito) "concluded that §2 does not require state officials to draw election-district lines to allow a racial minority that would make up less than 50 percent of the voting-age population in the redrawn district to join with crossover voters to elect the minority’s candidate of choice. ... This holding does not consider the permissibility of crossover districts as a matter of legislative choice or discretion. Section 2 allows States to choose their own method of complying with the Voting Rights Act, which may include drawing crossover districts. See Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U. S. 461, 480–482. Moreover, the holding shouldnot be interpreted to entrench majority-minority districts by statutory command, for that, too, could pose constitutional concerns. See, e.g., Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900. Such districts are only re-quired if all three Gingles factors are met and if §2 applies based onthe totality of the circumstances."

    The Two (Thomas and Scalia) said "the text of §2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 does notauthorize any vote dilution claim, regardless of the size of the minor-ity population in a given district."

    The Four (Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer) filed one dissent in which all joined and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer filed additional dissents. Justice Souter's opinion stated, "I would hold that ... a district may be a minority-opportunity district so long as a cohesive minority population is large enough to elect its chosen candidate when combined with a reliable number of crossover voters from an otherwise polarized majority."

    Justice Ginsburg said, "Today’s decision returns the ball to Congress’ court. The Legislature has just cause to clarify beyond debate the appropriate reading of §2." [Can the introduction of a Voting Rights Act of 2009 be far?]

    Justice Breyer's opinion asks, "Why not use a numerical gateway rule that looks more directly at the relevant question: Is the minority bloc large enough, is it cohesive enough, is the necessary majority crossover vote small enough, so that the minority (tending to vote cohesively) can likely vote its preferred candidate (rather than a consensus candidate) into office?" and proposes a a new test: "Suppose we pick a numeri-cal ratio that requires the minority voting age population to be twice as large as the percentage of majority crossovervotes needed to elect the minority’s preferred candidate.We would calculate the latter (the percentage of majoritycrossover votes the minority voters need) to take accountof both the percentage of minority voting age population in the district and the cohesiveness with which they vote."

    February 19, 2009

    Texas: 5th Circuit revives suit against Texas Democrats under Sec. 5

    The Fifth Circuit has partially reversed the dismissal of a Section 5 case about the allocation of delegates to the Texas Democratic Party convention. The opinion begins:

    Plaintiffs-Appellants LULAC of Texas, the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston, Texas, and several individuals who reside in various Texas senatorial districts appeal from the dismissal by a single-judge district court of their claims under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act against Defendants-Appellees the State of Texas and the Texas Democratic Party (the “Party”), contending that the judge should have referred their claims to a threejudge court. Plaintiffs’ suit challenges the Party’s method of allocating delegates to its nominating conventions based on raw voter turnout, a procedure that was not precleared by the United States Attorney General or the District Court for the District of Columbia. Reviewing the dismissal de novo, ... we AFFIRM the dismissal for the State, REVERSE the dismissal for the Party, and REMAND ....

    Maine: federal judge dismisses latest charges against Tobin

    The Bangor Daily News reports: A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the most recent charges against James Tobin, 48, of Bangor that alleged he lied to the FBI about his role in a phone jamming scheme on Election Day 2002 in New Hampshire.

    U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal agreed with attorneys for the former GOP political organizer that bringing the charges in U.S. District Court in Maine after he had been vindicated on far more serious ones in New Hampshire qualified as a vindictive prosecution.

    “The vindictive prosecution doctrine imposes critical ‘constitutional limits’ upon the exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” Singal wrote in his 12-page decision. “Those limits protect all current and future criminal defendants, including those whose conduct may be properly described as ‘insidious’ or ‘thoroughly bad.’ And by filing more severe charges following Tobin’s successful appeal without sufficient justification, the government exceeded those here.” ...

    The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 2007. It found that the telephone harassment statute was not a good fit for what Tobin had been convicted of doing. ...

    The latest charges against Tobin alleged that he lied when he told the FBI that it was McGee’s idea to contact Raymond for assistance in executing the plan. Tobin also lied, according to the indictment, when he told the FBI that Raymond and McGee already had spoken when Tobin talked with Raymond about the plan. -- District judge clears Tobin

    Hat tip to TPM Muckraker.

    February 13, 2009

    Alabama: group sues to declare state constitution invalid

    The Birmingham News reports: A group of Alabama voters who say the state's constitution was never legally ratified by the people are asking for a new vote on it or on a new constitution.

    The voters this month sued several state officials in Jefferson County Circuit Court's Bessemer division, claiming they violated voter rights by failing to ensure that Alabama's 108-year-old constitution is valid. State historians say the 1901 referendum on the document was plagued with voter fraud.

    The lawsuit is the latest approach at forcing reform of a lengthy state constitution that is riddled with racist language, offers little power to local governments and imposes a tax system that critics call immoral. Efforts to change it at the legislative level for years have been unsuccessful. ...

    Wayne Flynt, a retired Auburn University professor who has written extensively on Alabama history, said the constitution never passed. The official election results showed black voters supported it - but such support was unlikely, since a vote for the document was a vote to disenfranchise blacks, he wrote in an affidavit attached to the complaint. -- Group of Alabama voters challenges state Constitution -

    Note: The case is Tommie Lee Houston v. Troy King, CV 2009-139 (Jeff.Co. Cir.Ct, Bessemer). No images are yet available on

    February 4, 2009

    Alabama: Candiate without enough petition signatures now sues for $20 million

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A former mayoral candidate says he isn't filing a lawsuit to be allowed back into the campaign. The 29-year-old says he wants the money instead.

    Willie D. Knight, who is asking for $20 million in damages, is contending that the Montgomery Election Center discriminated against young candidates during the two-week qualifying period.

    All three candidates younger than 30 -- Knight, Byron Berry and Jamel Brown -- did not have the requisite 340 signatures on their petition because many of the petitioners either were not registered voters in Montgomery or had not updated their addresses. ...

    Knight filed a four-page hand-written complaint on Friday. He included a copy of his petition, which is more than 60 pages. As of Tuesday, the case had not been assigned to a judge.

    Knight alleges that the Montgomery Election Center staff members were negligent when they discredited certain petitioners. Some of the petitioners voted in the November general election, Knight claims. -- Former mayoral candidate sues for $20 million | | Montgomery Advertiser

    January 10, 2009

    Texas: Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to Section 5 of VRA

    The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would decide whether Congress overstepped its constitutional authority in 2006 by extending a central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    The plaintiff in the case, a Texas municipal utility district, has argued that Congress did not take sufficient account of more than four decades of progress toward racial equality that culminated in the recent election of the nation’s first black president.

    The court’s decision, expected by June, will help define the Roberts court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. opposed efforts to expand the voting rights law in 1982 as a young lawyer in the Reagan administration and has expressed skepticism on the court about racial classifications made by the government. The decision will also have significant practical consequences for elections in 16 states. ...

    The case concerns the requirement in Section 5 of the law that certain state and local governments, mostly in the South, must obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting. -- Supreme Court Takes Voting Rights Case -

    January 8, 2009

    New York: 3 charged with conspiracy to interfere with voting rights

    AP reports: Three Staten Island men, riled by Barack Obama's victory, spent election night hunting down black people to beat up and yelled insults about the president-elect, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

    The men beat a Liberian immigrant teenager, pushed a black man to the ground, and drove their car over a white man they thought was black, according to the indictment.

    Ralph Nicoletti, 18, Michael Contreras, 18, and Brian Carranza, 21, were arrested early yesterday. All three pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to interfere with voting rights. -- 3 charged in election night attacks - The Boston Globe

    Alabama: suit attacks residency requirement for one circuit court

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: An Elmore County man is suing the state's top election official over a law that imposes residency requirements on candidates running for circuit judge in the 19th Judicial Circuit.

    Attorney Jerry M. Blevins filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Beth Chapman because of a recent change to state law that would require him to live in a specific county in the 19th Judicial Circuit to be a candidate for one of the three judge positions.

    The 19th Judicial Circuit covers Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties, and an amendment that passed the state Legislature during the 2008 regular session requires judges to live in the county over which they preside.

    Blevins wants to run for the No. 3 judge seat in 2010, but because of the change to the law, he would have to live in Chilton County to be eligible.

    Under the new amendment, Blevins would only be eligible to run for seat No. 1 because he lives in Elmore County. -- Man sues to be in race for judgeship | | Montgomery Advertiser

    January 5, 2009

    Florida: suit against DNC's primary schedule set for argument on Thursday

    The Fulton County Daily Report reports: While the nation prepares to inaugurate a new president this month, at the federal appeals court in Atlanta a few Democrats are still arguing about the presidential primary process.

    On Thursday the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a challenge to the way the Democratic Party chooses its presidential nominee. Victor DiMaio, a Florida-based Democratic political consultant, contends that the party violates the federal Constitution by taking states' racial makeup and other factors into account in its rules on presidential primary dates. ...

    In May, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara of Tampa rejected DiMaio's new complaint, granting summary judgment to the party. Within days, the Florida delegates were no longer critical because Hillary Clinton began backing Barack Obama, and in August all Florida's delegates received a full vote at the convention.

    But in their 11th Circuit brief, the party's lawyers write that they can't say the issue DiMaio raises won't come up again, as the state law setting the primary date ahead of what party rules allow remains in effect -- which DiMaio calls a "train wreck" waiting to happen. The 11th Circuit recently requested additional briefing on whether the case is moot given that the election is over, said DiMaio's lawyer, Michael A. Steinberg of Tampa. -- - Primary Election Battle Continues in Federal Court

    December 23, 2008

    It's back: Bush v. Gore being cited and applied

    The Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, issued eight years ago this month, was widely understood to work like that tape recorder in “Mission: Impossible.” It was meant to produce a president and then self-destruct. ...

    But now, as the petitioner leaves the national stage, Bush v. Gore is turning out to have lasting value after all. “You’re starting to see courts invoke it,” said Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor at New York University, “and you’re starting to see briefs cite it.”

    Divorced from its earlier context, the growing point of the case is to impose order on often chaotic election processes in the states.

    “Bush v. Gore introduced an important idea,” Professor Issacharoff said. “It is that the political process has rules, the rules have to be fairly applied and that those rules need to be known up front.” -- Bush v. Gore Set to Outlast Its Beneficiary

    December 11, 2008

    New York: judge-elect accused of false campaign-finance reporting (court doc linked)

    New York Law Journal reports: Nora S. Anderson, 56, who is scheduled to become Manhattan surrogate on Jan. 1, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that she falsely reported $250,000 pumped into her campaign as her own money when in fact the funds came from Seth Rubenstein, the lawyer in whose office she has worked for the last nine years. (See the indictment.)

    Rubenstein, 81, a well known trust and estates lawyer based in Brooklyn, likewise pleaded not guilty to the same charges of making contributions above campaign spending limits and concealing the source of the contributions. ...

    Both Anderson and Rubenstein were charged in a 10-count indictment and face a maximum prison term of 1 1/3 to four years if convicted of any of the top six counts, all Class E felonies.

    Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said the "crux of the case" is that the two sought to evade campaign spending limits that apply to Rubenstein as a contributor but not to Anderson as the candidate by making it appear that his contributions had in fact come from her. -- - Not Guilty Pleas Entered Over Judge-Elect's Campaign Contributions

    November 20, 2008

    Alabama: US sues Sec/State for failing to file absentee-vote reports (link to court doc)

    AP reports: The Justice Department has sued Alabama officials for allegedly violating a law that protects absentee voters overseas, including those serving in the military.

    The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Montgomery is against the state of Alabama and its top election official, Secretary of State Beth Chapman. State officials are accused in the suit of failing to file reports on overseas absentee ballots as required by a 2002 federal law. -- - Huntsville, Alabama - News Weather, Sports | Justice Dept. sues Alabama on overseas vote report

    Note: the case is not yet available on Pacer. I will post the complaint when it is available. Perhaps one of my friends in the Department of Justice will email me a copy. The complaint is now available on the Voting Section website. Hat tip to John Tanner for the link.

    November 5, 2008

    Alabama: suit filed over illegal 1998 investigation of absentee voters (court doc attached)

    The Birmingham News reports: Some black Bessemer residents who voted by absentee ballot in the contentious 1998 Jefferson County sheriff's race filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, claiming former Sheriff Jim Woodward and others illegally investigated them in his bid to challenge election results.

    The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham on behalf of Russell Trusser, Geneva Trusser, Telly Trusser and others, contending their civil rights were violated. Lawyers are seeking class-action status for the suit.

    The suit relies on allegations stemming from federal charges filed against Woodward and lawyer Albert Jordan in 2000. A jury convicted the men in January 2006 of charges they conspired to run criminal history checks on absentee ballot voters to use in Woodward's 1998 election contest against Democratic challenger Mike Hale.

    Jordan and Woodward continue to maintain their innocence and appealed their convictions. A judge sentenced Woodward and Jordan each to six months probation, but said, at that sentencing, he would've found the men not guilty based on the evidence.

    Woodward, who maintains the federal investigation against him was politically motivated, said Tuesday a lawsuit with similar allegations already has been tossed out of court. He said the allegations are too old in the current suit. Woodward said he will consult with his attorney and is considering a countersuit. -- Federal lawsuit claims former Jefferson County sheriff, others illegally targeted some absentee voters in Bessemer in 1998 -

    The complaint may be viewed here.

    November 1, 2008

    Alabama: AG seizes Evergreen voting records

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: Officers with Alabama Attorney General Troy King's office have seized all city and county records pertaining to the Oct. 7 municipal runoff in Evergreen, officials said Friday.

    Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for King's office, said investigators served two subpoenas Oct. 28 that ordered any and all documents relating to the runoff to be surrendered to the state office.

    One subpoena was served on the city clerk for municipal records, and the other on the county's chief registrar, Patterson said. Patterson declined to say why the records were seized.

    The hotly contested Evergreen mayoral race ended with incumbent Mayor Larry Fluker winning by two votes over challenger Pete Wolff III in a campaign that divided the town along racial lines. Fluker, elected four years ago, is the town's first black mayor. Wolff is white.

    Both sides raised claims of illegal tactics and voter fraud during the campaign and after the votes were counted Oct. 7. At the end of that evening, Wolff finished ahead by two votes. Ten uncounted challenged ballots surfaced, and when seven were ruled valid, the race flipped in Fluker's favor. -- Runoff voting records seized by attorney general -

    Disclosure: I represent Mayor Fluker in the election contest.

    October 28, 2008

    Alabama: DOJ sues (and settles with) City of Calera for violation of VRA (court docs attached)

    The Birmingham News reports: The federal government filed a lawsuit against the city of Calera in U.S. District Court, alleging the city's new voting boundaries violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. ...

    The lawsuit says Calera's new voting districts, which eliminated the city's sole mostly minority district, were not approved before the municipal elections. The Justice Department has said the new boundaries may be unfair to minorities.

    The lawsuit confirms that the newly elected officials in Calera will not be able to take office on Monday, unless the districts are approved before then. The sitting mayor and council will remain in office until the lawsuit is resolved. ...

    During a recent meeting, Ellis told city officials the Justice Department does not trust the population and race data submitted by Calera. The Justice Department has asked the city for more specific information. -- U.S. government sues Calera over voting districts -

    The article does not explain that the City has entered into a consent decree. Both the complaint and the consent decree are attached.

    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 24, 2008

    Pennsylvania: suit filed over back-up paper ballots

    The New York Times reports: Concerned that voting machine breakdowns could cause long lines on Election Day, particularly in minority neighborhoods, several groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday to force Pennsylvania election officials to provide paper ballots when half the machines in a precinct have failed.

    The top election official, Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés, has directed poll workers to provide paper ballots to a precinct only when all of its touch-screen voting machines are broken.

    The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia by the Pennsylvania N.A.A.C.P.; the Election Reform Network, a nonpartisan group; and a coalition of individual voters. It asks a federal judge to declare Mr. Cortés’s directive unconstitutional on the grounds that it puts an undue burden on residents who may have to wait hours to vote.

    Mr. Cortés said that current safeguards should ensure an efficient election and that forcing a change could confuse poll workers who had already been trained. -- Lawsuit Is Filed Over Ballot Rule in Pennsylvania -

    October 15, 2008

    North Carolina: SCOTUS hears arguments in Bartlett v. Strickland

    The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court returned Tuesday to the question of how to take account of race in drawing election districts, hearing arguments in a case that is likely to resolve a question the court has left open five times: Must a minority group constitute a majority in a given district before an important protection of the federal Voting Rights Act kicks in?

    Christopher G. Browning Jr., North Carolina’s solicitor general, defended the decision of officials there to violate a state law in order to create a district that included about 39 percent of the black voting-age population, saying the Voting Rights Act required the creation of the district to prevent the dilution of the minority group’s ability to elect a representative of its choice.

    The fact that the district did not include a majority of black voters was a virtue, Mr. Browning said. True, he said, minority voters would be able to elect a representative of their choice only with the aid of voters from other groups. “Coalition districts help us in reaching the point where race will no longer matter,” Mr. Browning said. -- Justices Weigh Race in North Carolina Case -

    The Washington Post also reports on the case: The court's decision will affect the redrawing of political lines after the 2010 census and is of particular concern to civil rights leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus. Nearly half of the caucus's members were elected from coalition districts, and some worry that redistricting could threaten them or future black candidates if states do not fear lawsuits over reapportionment decisions.

    If yesterday's oral argument is any indication, the court may be moving in a different direction. Several conservative justices indicated support for maintaining the "50 percent rule" supported by most lower courts -- that vote-dilution lawsuits can be filed only when minorities can show that they would constitute more than half the population if the district in question were redrawn again.

    Justice Antonin Scalia said North Carolina's position would lead to more litigation and "inject" the courts "into this very political game much more frequently than we now are."

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the success of coalition districts in electing black candidates "would be evidence that the Voting Rights Act has succeeded, rather than evidence that you need to apply it more broadly."

    Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, often the deciding vote when the court splits along ideological lines, sarcastically referred to coalition districts as a "brave new world" where "race is the key factor" in drawing political lines. -- Justices Hear Voting Rights Case

    October 14, 2008

    New Hampshire: Tobin indicted for lying to FBI

    TPM Muckraker reports: Former Republican operative James Tobin has been indicted for making false statements to the FBI in connection with the bureau's investigation of a phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire in 2002, according to court filings examined by TPMmuckraker.

    ... Here's the indictment. It contains two counts, both related to making false statements to the FBI during its investigation into the New Hampshire GOP's effort to jam the phones of the Democratic Party on Election Day 2002.

    It charges, in part:

    "Tobin stated that when he first called Allen Raymond to discuss the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond and Charles McGee had already spoken with each other about the plans. In fact, as Tobin well knew, Tobin spoke with Raymond before Raymond was contacted by McGee, and Tobin requested that Raymond assist McGee with the plan."

    McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, and Raymond, a GOP consultant, both were convicted and served jail time in connection with the scheme.

    But Tobin's own 2005 conviction relating to the scheme was thrown out on appeal in 2007, and he was acquitted. -- TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Ex-GOP Operative in New Hampshire Indicted

    October 10, 2008

    Ohio: Sec/State Bruner must verifiy new resgistrations

    AP reports: A federal judge on Thursday ordered Ohio's top elections official to verify the identity of newly registered voters by matching them with other government documents.

    U.S. District Judge George C. Smith in Columbus ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must perform verification required by the Help America Vote Act. That includes matching new registrants' information against information in databases maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration.

    The order was the result of a lawsuit the Ohio Republican Party filed against Brunner, a Democrat. ...

    Brunner also was ordered to establish a process by which Ohio's 88 county election boards can access information generated by the checks. -- Ohio Secretary Of State Must Verify Registrations -

    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 8, 2008

    Alabama: Supreme Court dismiss Riley's appeal

    The Birmingham News reports: The picture of who will represent District 1 on the Jefferson County Commission became crystal clear for the first time in a year following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week in the last lawsuit over the issue.

    George Bowman will remain in office until after the Nov. 4 election results are certified, lawyers in the case said Tuesday. Then William Bell will take over.

    Bell, a Birmingham city councilman, is the sole candidate for the commission seat on the Nov. 4 ballot. Bell's term will end in 2010, when all five commission seats go before voters.

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed by Gov. Bob Riley in a lawsuit challenging his right to appoint Bowman to the commission. -- William Bell to take office after Nov. 4 -

    October 3, 2008

    Alabama: Secretary of State will provide copy of voter list to political parties

    The Huntsville Times reports: Secretary of State Beth Chapman agreed Thursday to give the Alabama Democratic and Republican parties updated voter lists as part of a settlement reached in Montgomery County Circuit Court. ...

    The Democratic Party sued Chapman after she had refused to give the party a second voter list this year, saying that she would have to charge the party 1 cent for each of the state's more than 2.94 million registered voters on the list, or more than $29,000.

    Judge William Shashy said he would sign an order later to validate the agreement.

    But in an agreement worked out behind closed doors, Chapman said she would give the list to both parties by 5 p.m. Thursday. And she agreed from now on to give both parties copies of the voter lists before each primary election and each general election. -- Parties will get new list of voters -

    October 2, 2008

    Alabama: Rev. Glasgow sues over ban on in-prison voter registration (court docs attached)

    The Dothan Eagle reports: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund expects a federal court to overturn Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen’s recent decision to prevent the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow’s drive to register eligible prisoners to vote.

    The Legal Defense Fund filed suit in Montgomery’s U.S. District Court on Tuesday, calling Allen’s decision “arbitrary and unconstitutional,” according to Ryan P. Haygood, co-director of the fund’s Political Participation Group.

    Allen’s decision came after being contacted by Alabama Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard, who says he will never support voting rights for prisoners, even though state law allows non-violent offenders to vote. -- Civil rights group fights for prisoners’ votes

    Here are the complaint, exhibits A, B, and C.

    "Voting goes to court"

    The Chicago Tribune reports: In a furious, multistate campaign raging far from television cameras and cable TV chatter, scores of lawyers are arguing over the voting rights of perhaps millions of Americans who plan to cast ballots in the presidential election.

    This is the courtroom campaign beneath the presidential campaign, fought in politically strategic states including Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and others. The outcome of battles over voter registration, absentee ballots and the integrity of state voting lists could prove to be decisive in states where the margin of victory is expected to be slim.

    "Voter registration is likely to be the issue of the 2008 election season," said Daniel Tokaji, an election law specialist at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

    The legal battles come as millions of previously disinterested Americans, most of them Democrats energized by the primary contest between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have registered to vote in November's election. With Democrats emboldened by large gains in voter registration and Republicans relying on an effective get-out-the-vote machine, the election could turn on pre-election arguments over who is allowed to vote. -- Voting goes to court: Registration lawsuits could shape election

    October 1, 2008

    Alabama: Rev. Kenneth Glasgow sues to get in-jail voter registration

    The NAACP Legal Defense announces: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed a lawsuit today in federal court on behalf of Reverend Kenneth Glasgow to allow him to resume registering eligible voters currently incarcerated in Alabama's correctional facilities.

    With just 24 days remaining before voter registration closes to citizens seeking to participate in the November 4 elections, the lawsuit challenges the decision of Richard Allen, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, to rescind Reverend Glasgow's access to incarcerated individuals who are eligible to vote under Alabama law. -- NAACP Legal Defense Fund -- Cases

    September 30, 2008

    Minnesota: networks sue over exit-polling restriction

    The Star-Tribune reports: The nation's major television news networks and the Associated Press filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Minnesota on Monday, arguing that a new law that keeps exit pollsters at least 100 feet away from voting places is unconstitutional and interferes with their right to do their job.

    ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press insist that the law is too restrictive. The law had earlier prohibited exit polling within 100 feet of where actual voting takes place. But the language was amended in April to read: "No one except an election official or an individual who is waiting to register or to vote shall stand within 100 feet of the building in which a polling place is to be located."

    Susan Buckley, an attorney representing the news organizations, said no other state has such a restriction.

    The news organizations are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional and to allow exit polling within the 100-foot zone. Moving pollsters outside the zone, the news organizations argue, could make exit polls less accurate and less helpful to the public. -- Networks sue Minnesota over exit poll limits

    September 8, 2008

    Texas: the NAMUDNO challenge to the Voting Rights Act docketed in Supreme Court

    SCOTUSblog reports: Urging the Supreme Court to curb Congress’ powers to enforce the voting rights declared by the Constitution’s Fifteenth Amendment, a public utility district in Texas on Monday filed a sweeping challenge to the constitutionality of the extension of the federal Voting Rights Act’s long-controversial Section 5. In an appeal that will require five Justices to resolve, the district filed in Northwest Austin Municipal District Number One v. Mukasey. ...

    “The Court should find,” the appeal argued, “that the 2006 enactment of Section 5, which consigns broad swaths of the Nation to apparently perpetual federal receivership based on 40-year-old evidence, fails” the Court’s strict test for judging congressional authority to implement the Reconstruction-era Amendments. That test is whether a federal law to enforce one of those Amendments is “congruent” with and “proportional” to the problem Congress addressed — a test that the Court adopted for reviewing laws passed under the Fourteenth Amendment. -- Court asked to strike down vote law

    The post has links to the JS and the decision below.

    August 28, 2008

    Alabama: GOP claims not filing to run is just a "technicality"

    A Birmingham News report begins: The Jefferson County Republican Party asked a judge Wednesday to include Andrew Smith's name on the November ballot for the unexpired assistant tax assessor's term in Bessemer although Smith didn't qualify for the spot.

    The party is seeking to overturn a decision made in July by Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King who determined that Smith's name could not be added to the ballot because he missed the qualifying deadline. Smith qualified to run only for the full term. Only Democrat Ron Yarbrough qualified to run for the unexpired term.

    Bessemer Division Circuit Judge Eugene Verin said he would issue an order by Tuesday.

    In a hearing before Verin, Republican Party lawyer Greg Cook said a technicality is keeping Smith's name off the ballot for the unexpired term and that miscommunication between Smith and the party "should not override the right of voters to have a choice." -- Jefferson County Republicans still push for Andrew Smith name on tax post ballot -

    August 20, 2008

    Maine: Justice Souter refuses to place independent candidate on ballot

    SCOTUSblog reports: Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, in a brief order Wednesday afternoon, turned down a request that would have given an independent candidate in Maine for the U.S. Senate a place on the Nov. 4 ballot for that office. Souter acted without referring the stay application to his colleagues. There was no written opinion, just a simple denial order. The Justice’s action appears to assure the state’s two major party candidates, incumbent Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, and her Democratic challenger, Rep. Tom Allen, that they will not have to worry about an independent drawing votes away from them. Sen. Collins is considered by political analysts to be one of the vulnerable GOP Senators seeking reelection. Hoffman’s counsel could still go ahead with plans to file a full appeal on the ballot access issue, but Souter’s action probably reduces significantly the chances that such an appeal would succeed, or that a final ruling could come in time. Maine officials say the ballot must be finalized by Aug. 29. -- UPDATE: Souter refuses to order ballot access

    Michigan: court may rule today on "Reform Michigan Government Now" initiative

    A Detroit News report begins: A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals could decide as early as today whether a far-reaching constitutional amendment that impacts all three branches of government should be allowed to appear on the November ballot.

    The judges heard testimony Tuesday on a challenge brought by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and others, asking the court to declare the Reform Michigan Government Now proposal ineligible for the ballot because of the sweeping changes its passage would usher in.

    Court watchers expect the appellate panel -- Judges Bill Schuette, William Whitbeck and Patrick Meter -- to announce a decision before 10 a.m. Thursday, when the Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet to decide whether the plan should be placed before voters. -- Judges to rule on state reform

    August 18, 2008

    Maine: independent candidate asks Justice Souter for a chance to get on the ballot

    A ScotusBlog post begins: Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter has asked the state of Maine and the state Democratic Party chairman to supply their views on the right of an independent candidate for U.S. Senate to have his nominating petition signatures accepted so that he can get on the November election ballot. In an order issued Friday (found here), Souter — in his role as Circuit Justice for the area that includes Maine — sought responses to First Amendment issues raised by the non-party candidate, Herbert J. Hoffman, and told all of the lawyers involved to discuss what kind of legal remedy, if any, should be available to Hoffman. Those filings are due Tuesday.

    Souter has the authority to act alone, but also may choose to share the issue with his colleagues.

    In an application (08A138) filed Thursday seeking an order to block a Maine Supreme Court ruling of July 28, Hoffman contended that he has submitted 4,038 valid signatures on nominating petitions — over the 4,000 minimum required by state law. But, because of the state court decision, throwing out three separate petitions that each included only a single invalid signature, he would wind up with a total of only 3, 929, and thus would be barred from the ballot.

    The state ruling, Hoffman’s application argued, violates the First Amendment right of political expression of himself and voters who support him, the right to gather politically to support a candidate, and the actual right to vote. -- Souter probes Maine ballot access issue

    August 15, 2008

    Texas: Justice Hecht defends against campaign-finance charge

    AP reports: Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, appearing before the Texas Ethics Commission, defended himself Thursday against allegations he broke campaign finance laws by accepting discounted legal fees to fight an abuse of office complaint. ...

    Hecht was sanctioned in 2006 by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which alleged that he had abused his office by promoting Harriet Miers for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal canons bar Texas judges from endorsing candidates for public office, but Hecht was able to get the sanction reversed on appeal by arguing that Miers was not running for elective office.

    In the process, Hecht racked up about $440,000 in legal fees. Hecht later told supporters that he had gotten a substantial discount on the fees from attorney Chip Babcock and his firm, Jackson Walker. But a liberal watchdog group, Texas Watch, said Hecht never properly reported a discount totaling about $100,000.

    The group filed a sworn complaint, saying the failure to report the cut-rate fees as a campaign gift constitutes a violation of state campaign finance laws. Texas Watch now wants the commission to fine the Republican judge up to $300,000. -- Supreme Court justice defends self at hearing | AP Texas News | - Houston Chronicle

    August 13, 2008

    Alabama: Mobile probate judge asks for ruling on late filing of ethics-disclosure forms

    The Mobile Press Register reports: Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis on Tuesday said he has filed a complaint asking Circuit Court judges to decide whether three local candidates should be taken off the ballot for violating the state's ethics code. ...

    Davis, a Republican, said that the complaint notes that an official with the Alabama Ethics Commission said that Manzie, Crenshaw and Law did not comply with state law in filing a campaign finance form by the deadline. ...

    Among other things, the candidates were accused of filing their statement of economic interests with the Alabama Ethics Commission late or not at all.

    Candidates must file that statement with the Montgomery-based commission within five days of qualifying, according to Jim Sumner of the Ethics Commission.

    But Manzie and Crenshaw said they were told by local Democratic Party officials and state election officials that the statement of economic interests was due by April 30, which is the date written on the form itself.

    Both filed April 11. But according to testimony during the hearing, Manzie became a candidate Jan. 15 and Crenshaw on March 20, which means they would have missed the five-day threshold. -- Probate judge requests ruling -

    August 9, 2008

    California: 9th Circuit upholds VA's ban on voter registration drives (opinion linked)

    A Palo Alto Daily News report begins: A federal appeals court has upheld a Veterans Administration policy barring voter registration drives inside its hospitals, concluding the rule does not violate the First Amendment.

    In a unanimous three-judge decision Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the VA policy, which came under attack four years ago when Santa Clara County's Democratic Central Committee tried to conduct voter registration at the VA's facility in Menlo Park. VA officials barred the registration, citing a rule that prohibits partisan political activity at VA hospitals.

    The legal conflict arose from an attempt by Steve Preminger, the committee's chair, and Scott Rafferty, a Democratic Party lawyer, to register veterans at the hospital. When VA officials discovered that Rafferty wore a John Kerry button and was affiliated with the Democratic Party, they determined the registration effort violated their policy.

    Preminger could not be reached for comment Friday, but Rafferty expressed disappointment, saying further appeals are a possibility, particularly with another presidential election looming. -- Palo Alto Daily News

    The opinion (No. 08-15714, Preminger v. Peake) is available here.

    South Carolina: Green Party sues state for blocking its candidate

    An AP report begins: The American Civil Liberties Union sued the South Carolina Election Commission on Thursday, charging the state has kept the Green Party from putting its candidate on November's ballot.

    The ACLU said it filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbia because the commission wouldn't allow Eugene Platt on the ballot as a Green Party nominee for a Charleston-area state House seat after he lost his bid for the Democratic Party nomination in the June primary.

    While the Democratic Party may want to use the state's so-called "sore loser" law to keep Platt off the ballot, "that doesn't trump the right of another party to run who they chose," ACLU lawyer Laughlin McDonald said in an interview as the lawsuit was filed.

    The lawsuit asks the court to keep the state from using the sore loser statute to disqualify candidates and to require that Platt's name appear on the November ballot for the seat now held by Rep. Wallace Scarborough, R-Charleston. The sore loser statute prevents the loser of a primary election from appearing on a subsequent ballot as the nominee of a different political party. -- ACLU sues S.C. for nixing Green Party nominee | Spartanburg, South Carolina | | Spartanburg Herald-Journal

    August 8, 2008

    Ohio: Secretary of State sues voting machine company

    The Washington Post reports: The voting-machine wars in Ohio continue.

    Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is assuring voters in the battleground state that November's tally will be accurate even as she asserts -- in court filings yesterday -- that there is a problem with the touch-screen machines to be used in half of the state's 88 counties.

    Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, said in May that its machines had some problems tabulating votes. But the company has contended in court filings that it had fulfilled its contract to deliver an electronic system.

    During the May primary, Brunner said officials in Butler County, north of Cincinnati, realized that 150 votes were dropped when they were being transferred from memory cards. When Brunner looked into it, she found that the software problem had come up in 11 counties. No vote was lost, she said, because local officials had caught the discrepancies. -- Ohio Sues Over Trouble With Voting Machines -

    August 7, 2008

    Florida: supporters of planning initiative sue to get on ballot

    A News4Jax report begins: Supporters of a proposed Florida consitutional amendment requiring voters to approve changes in local growth management plans told a federal judge Wednesday that a host of discrepancies and problems improperly blocked the measure from the November ballot.

    Among problems described in testimony before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra were mistakes in double-counting invalid voter petitions, widely disparate standards used by the state's 67 election supervisors and suspiciously high rejection patterns in some counties. ...

    Herrin said also between 7,000 and 10,000 signed voter petitions the group submitted were not accounted for at several county election supervisor offices. ...

    Florida Hometown Democracy wants Marra to order the measure placed on this year's ballot and to strike down the Feb. 1 signature deadline, which was enshrined in the Florida Constitution in 2004 by the state's voters. The group contends the new deadline violates the U.S. Constitution in a number of ways, including free speech and voting rights guarantees. -- Judge Hears Florida Planning Amendment Challenge - Jacksonville News Story - WJXT Jacksonville

    Massachusetts: Libertarians file suit when state won't allow tag-team petitions

    A Politicker MA report begins: The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Elections Division seeking to ensure the Libertarian presidential nominee appears on the November ballot in Massachusetts.

    At issue is whether state election officials allow the Libertarian party to substitute Bob Barr and Wayne Root, its nominees for president and vice president, in place of George Phillies, a Massachusetts Libertarian that sought his party's nomination, on the November ballot. In July of 2007, Phillies asked officials if the Libertarian nominee could be substituted for his name on the ballot because he had to begin gathering the requisite number of signatures well before the Libertarians May 25 convention where its nominee would be chosen.

    "The central issue in this case is the restriction of ballot access for third parties, which has been and continues to be a problem in Massachusetts," John Reinstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

    When Phillies failed to garner the nomination at the convention, he contacted election officials asking to substitute Barr's name for his on the ballot. On June 5, the ACLU said, the elections division denied the request and said Barr could not rely on the signatures Phillies had already collected. The Libertarian Party, the officials said according to the ACLU, would have to repeat the signature gathering process for Barr to appear on the ballot. -- ACLU Mass. files lawsuit for Libertarian candidate to appear on Nov. ballot | Politicker MA

    Alabama: would-be congressional candidate sues over petition-signature requirement (court doc attached)

    The Birmingham News reports:
    A retired Gardendale contractor who wants to run as an independent candidate in the 6th Congressional District has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law he said requires him to get 6,155 signatures of qualified voters before he can be on the ballot.

    Andy Shugart, in the lawsuit filed in Birmingham's federal court, contends state law violates his constitutional rights and is more restrictive than necessary by requiring he get the signatures. His suit said independent and minority party candidates for president or vice president are required to file a petition of at least 5,000 signatures. ...

    The suit names Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman as the defendant. Jean Brown, the secretary of state's chief legal adviser, said the office had not been served with the suit and she was unable to comment.

    The suit said Shugart meets all the qualifications to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, other than the requirement that he file a petition signed by 3 percent of qualified voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Shugart said he thought about running for office in the past, but there were always problems with ballot access. -- Gardendale congressional hopeful sues over signatures needed for petition-

    The complaint is attached here.

    Alabama: 3-judge panel requested in Section 5 suit

    The Birmingham News reports: A panel of three federal judges will decide a lawsuit to block the election to fill the District 1 Jefferson County Commission seat.

    In a hearing Wednesday at the Hugo Black Federal Courthouse, Judge L. Scott Coogler said a panel will be chosen quickly.

    The suit, filed on behalf of Birmingham resident Doris Powell, calls the election improper without clearance from the U.S. Justice Department. The suit seeks to block the election unless federal approval comes by Sept. 14, the deadline for county election officials to send ballots to the printer. -- Federal panel to hear latest District 1 lawsuit that seeks to block election for Jefferson County commission seat-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this case.

    August 5, 2008

    Florida: court keeps voucher amendments on the Nov. ballot

    The Florida Times-Union reports: Two proposed state constitutional amendments that could expand school vouchers will stay on the Nov. 4 ballot, a judge ruled Monday.

    The statewide teachers union and other organizations that challenged the proposals said they would appeal. Circuit Judge John C. Cooper said he realized time was important to both sides and ruled less than four hours after hearing arguments.

    Cooper rejected a claim the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission had exceeded its authority by offering amendments that advance vouchers, which let students attend religious and other private schools at taxpayer expense.

    Florida Education Association president Andy Ford said the teachers union would campaign against the amendments while it appeals. He conceded the legal issue may not be resolved before Election Day. --

    Hati-tip to Religion Clause for the link.

    Montana: 9th Circuit argument on whether church must report under campaign finance law

    Religion Clause reports: The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday heard oral arguments in Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church v. Unsworth, a challenge to Montana's election campaign reporting laws. The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices had ruled that the church should have reported its support of activities in 2004 to get voters to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage. -- 9th Circuit Hears Church's Challenge To Montana Election Finance Reporting Law (The post has links to background information and the oral argument audio.)

    California: AG says Prop 8 will not void current same-sex marriages

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports: If voters approve a November ballot measure banning same-sex marriages in California, thousands of gay and lesbian weddings conducted since the state Supreme Court legalized the unions on May 15 will probably remain valid, Attorney General Jerry Brown said Monday.

    The potential effect of Proposition 8 on existing same-sex marriages is already being debated among legal scholars and opposing sides in the Nov. 4 ballot measure campaign. Brown's position is significant because his office will represent the state in lawsuits over Prop. 8's validity and meaning if it passes.

    The measure would amend the state Constitution to declare that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." It would overturn the court's ruling that the previous ban on same-sex marriage - established by statutes rather than a constitutional amendment - discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and violated the right to marry one's chosen partner.

    The measure does not state explicitly that it would nullify same-sex marriages performed before Nov. 4. But in their ballot arguments, supporters of Prop. 8 declare it would invalidate all such marriages "regardless of when or where performed" - an interpretation that would apply to existing as well as future marriages. -- Prop. 8 not retroactive, Jerry Brown says

    Hat-tip to How Appealing for the link.

    August 4, 2008

    West Virginia: Reform Institute files amicus brief on campaign contributions received by state-court justice from major campaign contributor

    From a press release of the Reform Institute: The skyrocketing sums being injected into elections for judgeships are undermining the judiciary. This disturbing trend is exemplified by the case of Caperton et al v. Massey Energy, which the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to review.

    In keeping with its commitment to fundamental governance and election reform, the Reform Institute has joined with the Brennan Center for Justice and the Campaign Legal Center today in filing an amicus brief in support of petitioners. As the brief states, “Amici share a concern that the injection of massive sums of money into judicial campaigns by litigants and lawyers, can, in certain circumstances, threaten the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the courts, and thereby deprive litigants appearing before those courts of due process of law.”

    The petitioners, led by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, argue that their Due Process rights were abridged because a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice refused to recuse himself from hearing the appeal of a $50 million jury verdict, even though the CEO of the company appealing the verdict contributed over $3 million to his campaign for the bench. The Justice, Brent Benjamin, ultimately was the deciding vote in overturning the verdict. As Mr. Olson remarked, “A line needs to be drawn somewhere to prevent a judge from hearing cases involving a person who has made massive campaign contributions to benefit the judge.”

    “This case perfectly illustrates how large contributions in judicial races can distort the judicial process, providing at the very least, the appearance of corruption,” according to Cecilia Martinez, Executive Director of the Reform Institute. “When litigants feel that they are at a disadvantage in court proceedings due to contributions to the presiding judge from the opposing party, respect for the rule of law suffers.” -- Massive Money in Judicial Elections a Threat to Due Process

    August 3, 2008

    California: suit asks that parts of ballot statement be removed on anti-abortion initiative

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Backers of a ballot measure that would require parents to be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor acknowledged Friday that the 15-year-old on which "Sarah s Law" is based had a child and was in a common-law marriage before she died of complications from an abortion in 1994.

    Proponents of the measure recently submitted an argument for the state voter guide saying the death of "Sarah" might have been prevented but her parents were not told she had had an abortion and so did not know the reason for her failing health. The proposal Proposition 4 will appear on California s statewide ballot in November.

    In court papers filed in her home state of Texas after her death, the man with whom she lived declared himself her common-law husband in an effort to secure custody of the child. Texas recognizes common-law marriage and does not view a married 15-year-old as a minor, according to an attorney for Planned Parenthood.

    A lawsuit co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates and filed Friday in Sacramento County Superior Court asks the secretary of state to remove the girl's story and other information it deemed misleading, including any reference to "Sarah's Law," from the material submitted for the official voter guide. -- 'Sarah's Law' would not have applied to 'Sarah,' acknowledge backers of the abortion-notification measure - Los Angeles Times

    Hat-tip to How Appealing for the link.

    August 1, 2008

    Alabama: judge asked to expedite new Jefferson County suit (court doc attached)

    The Birmingham News reports: A lawyer asked a federal judge on Thursday to fast track a lawsuit contending the Nov. 4 election for a Jefferson County Commission seat is illegal without prior federal approval.

    U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler was assigned to the case Thursday, minutes after another judge withdrew.

    The suit was filed Tuesday by voting-rights lawyer Ed Still on behalf of a District 1 voter. It seeks to block the court-ordered vote for the county commission's District 1 seat unless the U.S. Justice Department clears the election by mid-September.

    The state Attorney General's Office filed the clearance request with the Justice Department on Monday. But Still does not expect a decision before Sept. 15, the deadline for ballots to go to the printer for the Nov. 4 general election. -- Judge asked to fast track suit contending Nov. 4 election for Jeffco Commission seat is illegal without federal approval-

    The motion is attached.

    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

    Illinois: independent candidate sues to get on congressional ballot

    The Lake-Forester reports: Allen Stevo is suing the State Board of Elections to try and regain a spot on the November ballot for his independent candidacy in the 10th Congressional District.

    The action came July 28, the same day the state board voted to remove him from the ballot, finding he had submitted less than 7,000 signatures, while independent candidates are required to submit at least 10,285.

    Stevo stated he's "challenging Illinois draconian restrictions on independent candidates who attempt to gain a spot on the ballot. Illinois' restrictions are widely considered among ballot access experts to be the most severe in the country, ranking next to those in Georgia and North Carolina."

    Stevo was required to submit 10,285 signatures to the State Board of Elections. His Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, was required to submit 673. His Democratic opponent, Dan Seals, was required to submit 1,001. That is a difference of 9,612 and 9,284 respectively. -- <span class=redtext><b id=red>Updated 7/31: </b></span>Stevo files federal suit to regain ballot spot :: News :: PIONEER PRESS :: Lake Forester

    July 31, 2008

    Alaska: federal court orders state to provide ballots in Yup'ik (with court doc)

    The federal court in Alaska has entered an order requiring the State of Alaska to --

    1. Provide mandatory poll worker training.
    2. Hire a language assistance coordinator fluent in Yup’ik.
    3. Recruit bilingual poll workers or translators.
    4. Provide sample ballots in written Yup’ik.
    5. Provide pre-election publicity in Yup’ik.
    6. Ensure the accuracy of translations.
    7. Provide a Yup’ik glossary of election terms.
    8. Submit pre-election and post-election progress reports.

    The order is attached. Thanks to Neil Bradley for sending this to me.

    July 30, 2008

    California: AG Brown and ballot-initiative sponsors fight over name

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Attorney General Jerry Brown is trying to stack the deck against a November ballot measure barring same-sex marriage by declaring in his formal ballot description that it "eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry," sponsors of the initiative charged in a lawsuit Tuesday.

    Backers of Proposition 8 argued that they are not trying to eliminate anyone's rights but are simply seeking to restore the definition of marriage that existed in California before May 15, when the state Supreme Court struck down the law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

    Brown, whose office prepares the title and summary of each measure on the state ballot, chose wording for both that is "inherently argumentative and highly likely to create prejudice" against Prop. 8, attorney Andrew Pugno said in the suit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court.

    The suit asks a judge to order a different title, such as "Limit on Marriage," the wording in the initiative petitions that 1.2 million registered voters signed to place the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Pugno said the judge could also delete Brown's heading and use the measure's brief text as its title: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." -- Prop. 8 backers sue to change ballot wording

    Alabama: new suit over Jefferson County commission vacancy (court doc attached)

    The Birmingham News reports: A voter in Jefferson County Commission District 1 filed a federal suit Tuesday asking judges to block the court-ordered Nov. 4 vote for the commission seat unless the election is cleared by the U.S. Justice Department.

    The suit, filed on behalf of Doris Powell, said the planned election is improper without clearance by the U.S. Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act because it represents a change in county voting law.

    The suit asks for a three-judge panel to block the election unless Justice Department approval comes in by Sept. 14, the deadline for county elections officials to send the ballot to the printer.

    "We want an election to be held that is valid under federal law," said Powell's lawyer, Ed Still. "If they can get preclearance in time to print the ballot, that will be fine. But we don't think that's going to happen." -- Judges are asked to block Nov. 4 election unless cleared by the U.S. Justice Department-

    Note: James Blacksher is my co-counsel. The complaint is attached.

    July 27, 2008

    Nevada: term limits valid, court holds; 21 find their campaigns are over

    The Reno Gazette-Journal reports: One day before Nevada's early voting was set to begin, the state Supreme Court confirmed Friday that an amendment to the state Constitution barring public officials from serving more than 12 years is valid -- effectively ending the campaigns of 21 veteran officeholders.

    However, state legislators who were elected in the Nov. 5, 1996, election and officially took office before the term limit provision became effective on Nov. 27, 1996, are not affected by the ruling, the court said in a second opinion.

    A lawmaker's term in office begins the day after election, so those who won their seats in 1996 were already on the job when the term-limit amendment was finalized. But public officials begin their jobs in January, so those elected in 1996 didn't start work until 1997, after the amendment's effective date. -- State's high court: 12-year limits valid | | Reno Gazette-Journal

    Hat-tip to How Appealing for the link.

    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 24, 2008

    New Mexico: Brennan Center sues over voter registration restrictions

    The Brennan Center announces: Today the Brennan Center for Justice, along with pro bono law firms Davis Polk & Wardwell and Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives, filed a lawsuit in state court in Albuquerque challenging a New Mexico law that significantly restricts the ability of voter registration groups to register new voters and threatens to block thousands of eligible New Mexico citizens from registering and voting in the 2008 elections as unconstitutional and inconsistent with federal and state law. Plaintiffs in the case are the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas Inc. (FAWCO), New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG), and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP). Plaintiffs typically register thousands of New Mexico citizens (especially low income, minority, disabled, and young citizens) to vote but have suspended or dramatically curtailed their operations as a result of the challenged law.

    There are currently over half a million unregistered eligible voters in New Mexico. The suit claims that New Mexico's law—New Mexico Statutes Annotated § 1-4-49, and New Mexico Administrative Rules §§—both enacted in 2005-constitutes an unconstitutional burden on free speech and association by impeding civic groups from helping eligible voters to register.

    "The law aggressively discourages civic organizations from helping New Mexico citizens to exercise their basic right to vote, and threatens voter registration drives across the state," Robby Rodriguez from SWOP stated. --

    The Brennan Center has a link to the complaint.

    July 23, 2008

    Alabama: Section 5 case, motion to dismiss or affirm filed in US Supreme Court

    This morning, my co-counsel and I filed the Motion to Dismiss or Affirm the appeal of Gov. Riley in Riley v. Plump, No. 07-1460, U.S. Supreme Court. The questions presented are:

    1. Whether this Court lacks jurisdiction over the present appeal because appellant’s notice of appeal was untimely filed.

    2. Whether section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c, requires preclearance when a covered jurisdiction enacts a statute repealing its preexisting law mandating special elections to fill vacancies on a county governing body and replaces it with a provision providing for temporary gubernatorial appointment.

    In this case, Gov. Riley argues that this case is covered by the Court's recent decision in Riley v. Kennedy, but our brief shows this case falls squarely within the “routine consequence of § 5” that a state must “administer a law it has repealed,” unless and until it receives preclearance of the new law. Riley v. Kennedy, 128 S. Ct. at 1986.

    We also submitted this letter to the Clerk to inform him of additional developments in the 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 19, 2008

    Ohio: judge orders state to put Libertarian Party on ballot

    The New York Times reports: Ohio must include the Libertarian Party’s nominees on its ballot in November, a court has ruled, complicating Senator John McCain’s effort to win conservative votes in a hotly contested state rich in electoral votes.

    The Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, formerly a Republican congressman from Georgia, will lead his party’s ticket, which includes the vice-presidential candidate, Wayne Allyn Root, and candidates for governor and several Congressional seats. ...

    The court order, issued Thursday, directs the Ohio secretary of state, Jennifer L. Brunner, to disregard her office’s current guidelines for ballot inclusion, which require eligible parties to gather valid signatures equal to one-half of 1 percent of the total vote in 2006 or to have garnered at least 5 percent of the last election’s votes. The Libertarians submitted 6,545 signatures in March, far below the approximately 20,000 needed. Ms. Brunner’s office has not decided whether to appeal the ruling. ...

    On the other side of the political spectrum, Ralph Nader is seeking to run on the Ohio ballot as an independent candidate, which requires 5,000 valid signatures. He plans to submit 15,000, the maximum amount Ohio law allows, in August, said Jason Kafoury, national coordinator for Mr. Nader’s campaign. -- Court Orders Ohio to Include Libertarian Party on Ballot

    Oklahoma: Libertarians sue for ballot access

    The Oklahoman reports: A third-party presidential candidate has filed a federal lawsuit to try and force his way on to Oklahoma's ballot in November.

    Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman selected as Libertarian presidential candidate, contends state election laws are discriminatory because unrecognized political party candidates cannot file to run for president in Oklahoma. -- Libertarian sues to get spot on ballot |

    July 17, 2008

    Missouri: court orders social services department to follow NVRA

    AP reports: The Missouri Department of Social Services has been violating a federal law that requires it to help its clients register to vote, a federal judge has ruled.

    U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday, ordering the social services agency to comply with the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the "motor-voter" law.

    The agency said it would follow the judge’s order. ...

    The National Voter Registration Act was enacted in 1993 and requires state public assistance agencies, which administer such programs as food stamps and Medicaid, to provide its clients with the chance to register to vote. The agencies also are required to help the clients complete the registrations. --

    The decision is available on the site of Demos.

    California: Supreme Court leaves "Marriage Protection Act" on fall ballot

    The Los Angeles Times reports: A voter initiative to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage will remain on the November ballot, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Wednesday.

    The court issued a brief order rejecting arguments that the initiative, Proposition 8, was an illegal constitutional revision and that voters had been misled when they signed petitions to put it on the ballot. The decision, reached in closed session during the court's weekly conference, cleared the way for what some observers expect to be a close vote on the marriage measure. ...

    If approved by voters, Proposition 8, called the "California Marriage Protection Act," would add a provision to the state Constitution that says, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." -- Bid to ban gay marriage will stay on ballot, California Supreme Court rules - Los Angeles Times

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports: The lawsuit against Prop. 8 argued that the one-sentence initiative was actually a broad attack on basic rights recognized by the court - a measure that would simultaneously deprive one group of fundamental freedoms by majority vote and strip the courts of their ability to enforce constitutional guarantees.

    Although its backers call it a constitutional amendment, Prop. 8 is actually a constitutional revision, the suit contended. A revision must be submitted to the voters by a two-thirds majority of the state Legislature.

    The last time the court accepted such an argument was in 1990, when it overturned part of a voter-approved constitutional amendment on crime. In that case, the justices said a provision requiring state judges to follow federal interpretations of defendants' rights was a broad attack on judicial authority and a "fundamental change in our ... governmental plan."

    Lawyers for the Prop. 8 backers argued that an amendment to restore the state's previous definition of marriage would leave courts with "full authority to continue protecting the rights of minorities." They said equally far-reaching changes in California law - for example, the restoration of the death penalty in 1972 and the overhaul of the tax system under Proposition 13 in 1978 - were accomplished by initiative. -- Challenge tossed, gay marriage ban on ballot

    July 13, 2008

    Florida: LWV's lawsuit may not effect on this year's registration drives

    The Times-Union reports: Confusion over how citizens can register to vote is threatening to muddle upcoming elections in Florida.

    Voter registration drives statewide are under fire from a new state law that establishes stiff fees for groups who undertake them. The League of Women Voters is challenging that law. ...

    The League of Women Voters of Florida is suing the state, saying the 2007 law will have a "chilling" effect on registration drives. They argue that the regulations disproportionately affect poor, African-American, Hispanic and women voters because they are twice as likely to register through a drive, said Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti, past president of the league.

    The court battle over the law won't be resolved for at least two months. So the rule won't be in place for at least the Aug. 26 primary, Davis said. The registration deadline is July 6.

    A federal judge has until mid-August to decide on a legal challenge to the law. Even if she decides it's permissible, it might not take effect before the registration deadline for the Nov. 4 election. The registration deadline for the November election is Oct. 6. -- Voter law threatens to cloud elections --

    Arizona: supporters sue over initiative's description on ballot

    Capitol Media Services reports: Backers of a plan to hike state sales taxes for the next 30 years filed suit Friday because they don t like the description to be given to voters about the ballot measure at least in part because it spells out the size of the proposed increase.

    The lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court specifically objects to the Legislative Council describing the proposed levy "a 17.8 percent tax increase." That according to attorneys for the group pushing the initiative is "misleading."

    But during the hearing of the council earlier this week Stan Barnes who lobbies for road-tax supporters conceded the number is in fact "deadly accurate." What he wanted however was to describe the increase only as one penny on every dollar spent. ...

    The actual language of every ballot measure is sent to the home of each registered voter. But given the complexity of many of the proposals - this one alone is 15 pages - state law requires the Legislative Council, made up of lawmakers from both parties, to craft "an impartial analysis" of each one.

    In this case, the majority of council members voted to say that approval of this initiative - dubbed "Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona's Economy" - would increase the state sales tax from 5.6 cents on every dollar to 6.6 cents, a 17.8 percent increase beginning in 2010. -- Backers of tax hike want ballot wording changed | Arizona Politics |

    July 11, 2008

    Arizona: Nader wins 2004 suit over petition restrictions

    Capitol Media Services reports: Arizona's early June deadline for independent presidential candidates to get on the general election ballot is illegal, a federal appellate court ruled Wednesday.

    In a unanimous decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the arguments by an attorney for Ralph Nader that the deadline, which applies only to those not affiliated with major parties, is unfair.

    The judges rejected arguments by Secretary of State Jan Brewer the early deadline is necessary to print ballots for the November election. The judges said the state's arguments held no water because election officials don't know for weeks - or months - later what other issues will also be on the ballot.

    And they noted the deadline doesn't apply to the major parties who are allowed to submit the names of their candidates for the ballot in August or even later.

    Potentially more significant, the judges also agreed with Nader that it is illegal to forbid anyone but Arizona residents to circulate petitions for presidential candidates. -- News: Federal court opens door for Ralph Nader to run in Arizona | court, run, door : YumaSun

    The opinion is here.

    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 30, 2008

    Alabama: state supreme courts backs gubernatorial appointment -- at least till November

    The Alabama Supreme Court decided today that it was completely legal for Gov. Riley to make an appointment to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission. Thus, Commissioner George Bowman will serve until his successor is elected in November. The Supreme Court leaves it up to the Circuit Court to figure out how the political parties are going to nominate candidates.

    The decision in Working v. Jefferson County Commission is here.

    Disclosure: James Blacksher and I represent Fred Plump, one of the parties who argued against the right of the Governor to appoint at all.

    Update: The Birmingham News story is here.

    Alabama: judicial candidates sues after disqualification

    The local NPR station reports that Ray Bryan has sued the Republican Party to keep the Party from decertifying his primary win. The latest story in the Anniston Star is behind a subscription firewall, but the Star reported a week ago: Local attorney Ray Bryan may not become circuit judge despite having won the June GOP primary election, according to state Republican Party officials.

    Alabama Republican Party Executive Director John Ross said the party's steering and candidates committee has moved to decertify Bryan, and plans to appoint a replacement, after he was late filing forms required by the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act. -- Bryan may lose judgeship over finance filings |

    June 29, 2008

    Alabama: GOP sues to get its candidate on the Jefferson County ballot

    Alabama Politics in Doc's Political Parlor reports: There is a confusing story in Jefferson County that is turning into a pitched battle between county Democrats and Republicans.

    Seems that about 18 months ago, Republican Andy Smith was appointed by Gov. Riley to fill an unexpired term as Bessemer Division Tax Assessor. That term ends Sept. 30, 2009. There is an election for the seat in this November’s general election.

    Here is where it gets confusing:

    A 1957 state law that applies only to Jefferson County requires political appointees to run for the unexpired term of their predecessor if the appointment was made more than six months before the next general election.

    To keep the seat without interruption, not only does Andy Smith have to qualify for and win the election for the term that begins in 2009, he also has to win the election for the remainder of the unexpired term. For which he did not file qualifying papers. -- Parties in Heated Battle in Jefferson County

    Links to the complaint and the Democrats' response is on the Political Party.

    June 24, 2008

    Democratic National Committee sues FEC over McCain's withdrawal from public financing

    From a DNC press release: The Democratic National Committee today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in D.C. to compel the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate John McCain's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the FEC's matching funds program despite using the program to financially benefit his campaign - just one of many McCain campaign improprieties. To view a copy of the DNC's lawsuit, please visit:

    John McCain talks about setting a new standard for "transparency and accountability" yet when it comes to his campaign, he doesn't seem to think the rules apply to him. First, he used taxpayer dollars to secure a loan to keep his campaign afloat in the primary, a move that's clearly against the law. Then the Wall Street Journal reported that McCain refused to pay for his campaign's use of a corporate jet - again against the law - and last week, his trip to Canada came under question for possible violations of federal law.

    Alabama: State AG blames DOJ over Perry election investigation

    The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Attorney General Troy King said Monday that U.S. Justice Department officials have refused to help his office investigate possible election violations in Perry County.

    King said federal officials, despite requests, have not sent his office a report on what federal observers saw in Perry County during the primary elections June 3. ...

    Justice Department spokeswoman Jamie Hais replied in a written statement that observer reports are not released while a matter is under review by the department, "per Department practice, and in order to protect the integrity of the Department's election monitoring system and the Department's own enforcement work." -- No report yet on Perry elections-

    June 21, 2008

    California: groups challenge anti-same-sex marriage initiative

    AP reports: Gay rights advocates asked California s highest court Friday to keep off the November ballot a citizens initiative that would again ban same-sex marriage.

    Lawyers for Equality California filed a petition arguing that the proposed amendment to the California Constitution should be invalidated because its impact was not made clear to the millions of voters who signed petitions to qualify the measure before the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions. ...

    Rather than effecting no change in existing California law, the proposed initiative would dramatically change existing law by taking that fundamental right away and inscribing discrimination based on a suspect classification into our state Constitution.

    The petition also claims the so-called California Marriage Protection Act should be disqualified because it would revise, rather than amend, the state Constitution by altering its fundamental guarantee of equality for all - in essence writing a law the state high court has already found unconstitutional into the constitution. -- Gay rights advocates seek to stop marriage measure -

    Hat-tip to TalkLeft for the link.

    June 20, 2008

    Indiana: LWV challenges voter I.D. under state constitution

    The Indiana Lawyer Daily reports: The League of Women Voters of Indiana filed a lawsuit today in Marion County challenging the state s three-year-old voter identification statute recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    At 2 p.m. today, the organization filed the suit with the Marion Superior Court against Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, arguing that it has the standing to sue on behalf of its members because the state statute burdens potential voters and would cause the league to have to spend precious resources assisting voters without the required ID.

    This lawsuit comes following the April 28 ruling from the nation s highest court in William Crawford, et al. v. Marion County Election Board, 128 S. Ct. 1610 2008 , which upheld the state law that is considered the strictest in the nation. That ruling rejected the facial challenge, but left the door open for as-applied challenges in federal court and those involving state constitutional claims. -- New voter ID lawsuit filed

    Thanks to Mike Pitts for the link.

    And thanks to William Groth, attorney for the plaintiffs, for a copy of the complaint.

    June 13, 2008

    Report on the argument in Preminger v. V.A.

    AlterNet reports: An attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs hospitals and homeless shelters for veterans, told a federal appeals court Thursday that the VA could not conceive of any circumstance where voter registration drives could occur at its facilities. ...

    But Scott Rafferty, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who has spent several years arguing the VA must allow voter registration drives to help wounded former soldiers register and vote, disagreed. ...

    The issue before a federal appeals court in San Francisco is whether restrictions on voter registration drives at the VA's campus in nearby Menlo Park are unconstitutional.

    The case has national significance. The VA has facilities across the country serving thousands of veterans. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton ordered the VA to help register veterans. However, the VA ceased allowing voter registration drives during the Bush administration. -- Veterans Affairs Tells Court It Can't Imagine Voter Registration Drives for Its Wounded Veterans and the Homeless | Democracy and Elections | AlterNet

    Criticism for V.A.'s ban on voter registration

    The New York Times reports: Voting rights groups are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for its decision to ban registration drives among the veterans living at federally run nursing homes, shelters for the homeless and rehabilitation centers across the country.

    The groups say such drives make it easier for veterans to register and participate in the political process, which could be particularly important this year in a presidential election in which the handling of the Iraq war and treatment of veterans will be major campaign issues. ...

    Although veterans are not federal employees, department officials based their decision in part on the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. ...

    For years, the department allowed the managers of its sites to decide individually whether to permit such drives. In 2004, Steve Preminger, a Democratic county chairman, filed a lawsuit after he was refused permission to register voters at a V.A. campus in Menlo Park, Calif., about 25 miles south of San Francisco. A lower court ruled against Mr. Preminger in January, finding that he had failed to prove that any veteran was actually prevented from voting.

    On Thursday, a federal appellate court heard arguments in the case. -- V.A. Ban on Voter Drives Is Criticized -

    June 5, 2008

    Alabama: Supreme Court hears arguments in Jefferson County election case

    The Birmingham News reports: A decision on the dispute over a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission may hinge on whether a special election to fill it was legal or if a group of residents had the right to sue to block the vote.

    The Alabama Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday over how to fill the commission vacancy created when Larry Langford resigned to become Birmingham s mayor.

    The justices did not say when they would rule.

    Justices questioned whether the people who sued to block the Feb. 5 special election had a right to file the case. If not, the court could rule there was no valid challenge to the election, won by Birmingham City Councilman William Bell.

    But the justices also discussed whether the 1977 law allowing the county's election commission to call for the vote was unconstitutional. Gov. Bob Riley's lawyer said state law gives the governor sole power to fill the seat and the county special-election law should be struck down.

    If a court majority agrees, the governor's appointee, George Bowman, would be the commissioner. -- Right to sue, hold special election at heart of District 1 case -

    June 3, 2008

    South Carolina: GOP candidate sues Democratic Party for defamation reports: Bill McKown, a Republican candidate for the state Senate in District 28, sued the S.C. Democratic Party Monday for conspiracy and defamation about a month after the party filed a lawsuit alleging he did not live in District 28, which includes North Myrtle Beach.

    McKown is the only candidate challenging incumbent Sen. Dick Elliott, D-North Myrtle Beach.

    McKown s suit alleges the Democrats forged an exclusive rental agreement to make it appear as if Elliott Realty Inc., a company controlled by Elliott, had exclusive rights to lease land McKown nearly leased for his campaign office.

    McKown s suit alleges that by forging the rental agreement, it made it seem as if McKown never had access to the property and lied on his statement of candidacy form, where he listed that property s address when he initially filed to run for office. -- Republican candidate sues Democratic Party - Local - Myrtle Beach Sun News

    June 2, 2008

    Texas: suit filed against at-large voting in Irving school district

    The Dallas Morning News reports: An unsuccessful school board candidate filed a federal lawsuit today alleging that the Irving school district’s system of at-large elections for trustees violates the law by denying representation to the school district’s Hispanic citizens.

    Manuel Benavidez, who twice ran unsuccessfully for a place on the Irving school board, is the named plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys for the Dallas firm Bickel & Brewer. The named defendants are Irving ISD and its seven elected trustees. -- Voting lawsuit filed today against Irving school district | Denton Record-Chronicle | News for Denton County, Texas | Latest News

    Note: the case is not on Pacer yet. If anyone has the complaint, please email it to me for posting.

    Michigan: Feiger acquitted on campaign-contribution charges

    The Detroit Free Press reports: Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger and his law partspener Vernon (Ven) Johnson were acquitted by a federal jury in Detroit today of illegally contributing more than $100,000 to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

    The defendants smiled after the verdicts were announced following 20 hours of deliberations over four days and a 20-day trial.

    “I’m very pleased with the American system and the jury. I thank the jury for listening. I hope this puts an end to political prosecutions in the age of Mr. Bush,” Fieger said.

    Feiger was facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison had he been convicted of obstruction of justice, along with certain loss of his law license. Both Feiger and Johnson would have faced a maximum of 5 years for the other charges. -- Fieger, law partner acquitted of illegal political donations

    May 31, 2008

    Alabama: roundup of blog commentary on Riley v. Kennedy

    Janai Nelson, "Chipping Away at the VRA One Court Decision at a Time," Talking Justice

    Anita S. Krishnakumar, "The 'Mischief Rule' Rule and the VRA in Riley v. Kennedy," Concurring Opinions

    Lee P, " U.S. Supreme Court vindicates Riley, King," A Bama Blog

    Will Bardwell, " Not-So-Educated-After-All Thoughts On Riley v. Kennedy,"

    Rick Hills, "Civil Rights Lawyers' Ignorance of Local Government Law," Prawfsblawg plus comments by Sam Heldman

    Texas: NAMUDNO loses on challenge to Sec. 5 of Voting Rights Act

    The New York Times reports: A special three-judge court ruled Friday that Congress acted constitutionally when it extended the law requiring sections of the country with a history of racial discrimination to get federal approval for any changes in voting procedures.

    The unanimous decision upheld a central provision of the Voting Rights Act, which Congress initially passed in 1965 and has extended several times since, most recently for 25 years in 2006. Section 5 of the law prohibits several states, mostly in the South, and some local government agencies from changing their election practices without permission from the Justice Department or the courts.

    Each renewal of the law has been followed by a legal challenge from some state or local agency to this “preclearance” requirement. The latest challenge was undertaken by the board of a public utility near Austin, Tex., which said the requirement conferred a “badge of shame” over “conditions that existed 30 or more years ago but have long since been remedied.”

    The Northwest Austin Utility District argued that Congress lacked sufficient evidence of racial discrimination to justify the intrusion on state sovereignty. -- Court Upholds Key Provision of the Voting Rights Act

    The opinion is available here.

    May 30, 2008

    Alabama: summary of Riley v. Kennedy opinion

    Thomas Haymore writes on SCOTUSblog: With a “preclearance” mechanism requiring Justice Department approval before a state may “enact or seek to administer” any changes in “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting,” Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has generated its fair share of public debate and legal challenge. In a carefully worded and consciously narrow opinion, the Court this week in Riley v. Kennedy, by a 7-2 vote, carved out an exemption from § 5 coverage, although the technicalities of the fact-specific ruling limit the reach of the opinion. -- Opinion Recap: Riley v. Kennedy

    Georgia: Dems sue over voter I.D. law

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: Despite a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of requiring voters to produce state-issued picture IDs at the polls, the Democratic Party of Georgia has filed a new lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's voter ID law.

    The Supreme Court ruled in an Indiana case on April 28 and the decision was cheered by Georgia Republicans because it seemed to protect the state's 2006 Photo ID Act.

    Emmet Bondurant, attorney for the state Democratic Party, said that Indiana case actually opened the door to get the Georgia law declared unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court. ...

    The Georgia law already was declared unconstitutional once by Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford, but the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed the case last year because it said the plaintiff, Rosalind L. Lake of Atlanta, had no standing to sue.

    The court said Lake could have voted without the ID when she filed the lawsuit and as a result could not challenge the law's constitutionality.

    In the Indiana case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state Democratic Party had standing to bring the lawsuit. Bondurant said that should help the new Georgia case clear the hurdle that derailed the last one. The new case will also be heard by Bedford. ...

    But Bondurant said the case will be decided under the Georgia Constitution, which he said permits any 18-year-old citizen the right to vote as long as he or she meets minimum residency requirements, has registered to vote and hasn't been convicted of a felony or been found mentally incompetent. -- Voter ID law disputed again

    Note: The case is Democratic Party of Georgia, Inc., v. Perdue et al., Case No. 2008CV151081, Fulton Co. Superior Court. If anyone has a copy of the complaint, please send it to me.

    May 29, 2008

    Texas: AG and Dems settle suit over voter-fraud charges

    The Dallas Morning News reports: The Texas Democratic Party has settled a federal lawsuit against the state, with Attorney General Greg Abbott agreeing not to target people who collect legitimate mail-in ballots as part of his voter-fraud campaign.

    Both sides claimed victory in the case, which was settled just before the U.S. District Court trial was set to begin Wednesday. ...

    In most cases, the voters were eligible and votes weren't changed, but the people who collected the ballots for mailing were prosecuted for failing to properly sign the mailing envelope as required by law.

    Under the agreement, the attorney general's focus will be on cases in which there was actual fraud, not what Democrats called "hypertechnical violations" involving mail-in ballots.

    "This is an implicit recognition on his part that these technical violations that he has been prosecuting these little old ladies for are not voter fraud," said attorney Gerald Hebert, who represented the Democratic Party.

    For his part, Mr. Abbott said the judge's order dismissing the lawsuit was accompanied by a renewed commitment by the state to educate political activists who collect mail-in ballots about the law's requirements. -- Texas Democrats, attorney general settle federal voter-fraud lawsuit | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Regional News

    Alabama: Supreme Court reversal may net Chastang back pay

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: If Juan Chastang gets his Mobile County Commission seat back, it will almost certainly be a temp job but it also could net him tens of thousands of dollars in back pay, a commission attorney said.

    The current District 1 commission term expires in November, and Chastang has already missed the April deadline to run for the seat this fall as a Republican, said Mark Erwin, a commission attorney who is also the head of the local GOP. For Chas tang to get his NAME on the ballot, he would need to fill out paperwork to run as an independent and round up thousands of signatures by 5 p.m. Tuesday. He could also run a write-in campaign.

    Even if Chastang only takes office for a few months, though, it could be worthwhile because he might be eligible to receive back pay totaling more than $75,000, Erwin said. -- Chastang could be owed back pay-

    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.

    Texas: 2 voting rights cases stir the state

    The Gadsden Times reports: “Vote or Die,” exhorts the faded slogan on a roadway at Prairie View A&M University, where black students once marched for the right to vote here in the town where they attend school, on a former cotton plantation about 50 miles northwest of Houston.

    The students won that battle in 2004, long after the United States Supreme Court supposedly decided the issue in 1979. But disputes over minority voting rights — along with accusations of election fraud — continue to rouse Prairie View, home to one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges, and other Texas locales.

    “The cold war’s not over — they just moved the fence from Berlin to the Texas border,” said DeWayne Charleston, Waller County justice of the peace, who maintains that local officials failed to record hundreds of students whom he registered to vote in 2006. The federal Department of Justice and the Texas attorney general’s office say investigations are under way here, but will not give details.

    Meanwhile, the attorney general, Greg Abbott, is a defendant in a separate voting rights case that goes to federal trial on Wednesday in the East Texas city of Marshall, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last month upholding Indiana’s tough voter identification law.

    Arguing that antifraud provisions enacted in 2003 were being selectively enforced to intimidate minority voters who are largely Democrats, the Texas Democratic Party filed suit against Mr. Abbott and Phil Wilson, the secretary of state, both Republicans. -- 2 Voter Rights Cases, One Gripping a College Town, Stir Texas | | Gadsden Times | Gadsden, AL

    Alabama: Governor crows over small "victory" in Supreme Court

    The Birmingham News reports: The ability of Alabama s governor to fill a vacancy on the Mobile County Commission was strengthened by the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, but the decision will not stop a similar legal battle over a seat on the Jefferson County Commission.

    While the two cases are not identical, they both pit Alabama s Republican governor - who wants to be able to appoint commissioners to certain vacancies - against local Democrats - who prefer special elections by the voters. They also highlight the continued, controversial effect of the Voting Rights Act on the state.

    The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, said Gov. Bob Riley s hand-picking of a new Mobile commissioner did not need to be reviewed by the federal government because it was simply a return to previous law, not a change to election procedures. In the opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court overturned an earlier ruling that Riley s appointment was invalid.

    Riley's office called it a "landmark victory" and said they were reviewing how it would play out in Mobile County, where Juan Chastang was appointed by Riley in 2005 but then lost a special election last year. ...

    But Democrats were not willing to concede that the Mobile decision would upend Bell's election.

    On the contrary, their lead attorney noted Tuesday that Ginsburg herself described the Mobile decision as "narrow," and that the legal history in Jefferson County is different than in Mobile. Birmingham lawyer Edward Still also called Emerson's statement "far-fetched."

    "He just won a technical knockout, that's all," Still said. -- Riley wins U.S. Supreme Court decision in Mobile, but Jeffco case continues-

    May 27, 2008

    Arizona: state asks for dismissal of voter I.D. challenge

    AP reports: State officials say a challenge to Arizona requirements for voter identification and proof of citizenship should be thrown out in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana s voter ID law.

    The ruling on Indiana s law leaves no room for doubt that Arizona s voting identification requirement is constitutional and also backs up the requirement that people registering to vote prove their citizenship, Attorney General Terry Goddard and four assistants said in a brief filed in U.S. District Court.

    Most but not all of the voting activists, tribes and other challengers to Arizona s law want to push ahead with their combined 2006 lawsuits, arguing that the Supreme Court s April 28 ruling in the Indiana case does not resolve all the issues at stake in Arizona. -- AZ seeks dismissal of voter ID challenge

    Arizona: Democrats appeal redistricting decision

    AP reports: Democrats challenging Arizona s legislative districts are appealing a court ruling that leaves the map in place and sets a high legal bar for challengers to clear.

    Lawyers for the challengers are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to review a state Court of Appeals decision overturning a trial judge s ruling and upholding the map drawn by a commission.

    The petition filed Thursday said the Supreme Court should hear the appeal because there are major conflicts between prior Court of Appeals rulings on how redistricting must be done by a state commission and that errors need to be corrected "once and for all" before redistricting begins again in 2010. ...

    The conflicts concern whether the commission must favor creating competitive districts or merely consider creating them, when it must do so in its process and whether it has powers and privileges of a legislative or an administrative body, the petition stated. -- State Democrats appeal legislative redistricting ruling

    May 26, 2008

    Florida: new suit against DNC over seating delegates

    The Miami Herald reports: Florida s history of discrimination against African Americans should force the national Democratic Party to count all of the state s delegates at its national convention, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday claims.

    The suit, filed by state Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller and two other Democrats, claims that the federal Voting Rights Act prohibits the national party from stripping the state of its convention delegates as punishment for violating party rules by holding its primary too early.

    The civil-rights-era law requires the U.S. Justice Department to approve any significant voting change in Florida to make sure it doesn t disenfranchise minority voters. Geller argues that includes the Democratic National Committee s demand that Florida switch from a state-run primary to party-run caucus system to avoid losing its delegates. ...

    Federal courts have thrown out two previous challenges to the DNC s rule. In December, a federal judge in Tallahassee rejected a lawsuit by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that claimed the punishment would disenfranchise Florida voters, and in March an Atlanta court dismissed the case of a Tampa political activist claiming that the DNC was treating Florida unfairly. -- Democrats file suit to seat Florida delegates - 05/23/2008 -

    Note: The complaint can be viewed here: Geller v. Democratic National Committee.

    May 23, 2008

    Texas: LULAC suit against Texas Democratic Party dismissed (updated with court docs attached)

    The Houston Chronicle reports: A federal judge sided with the Texas Democratic Party on Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Latino voter advocates who said the party's method for apportioning presidential delegates is discriminatory.

    U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio ruled that the spirit and intent of the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters, was not violated, as the League of United Latin American Citizens and other plaintiffs alleged.

    Biery dismissed the case. He ruled that the Voting Rights Act does not dictate to political parties how to decide on their presidential nominees as long as everyone has the right to participate.

    The Latino voter advocates said the complicated Texas delegate system, which included a March 4 primary and caucus and Senate district caucuses March 29, unfairly dilutes Latino votes by allotting fewer presidential delegates to heavily Hispanic areas. -- Judge dismisses Latino suit over Democratic vote | - Houston Chronicle

    The opinion may be downloaded here.

    May 22, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger's "I researched it" defense

    Crain's Detroit Business reports: High-profile lawyer Geoffrey Fieger described Wednesday how he spent part of a weekend in his firm s library doing research that convinced him that reimbursing employees and others for political donations was legal.

    But Fieger, who rose to prominence representing assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, said during cross-examination by assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland that there was no reason to document that opinion.

    "I've been practicing law for 30 years," Fieger said while on the stand a second day in his own defense at his federal campaign finance trial. "I don t write memos to myself ... about thoughts in my own mind." ...

    Under questioning from defense attorney Gerry Spence, Fieger said there was no attempt to conceal the reimbursements, which he said clearly were listed in the books. He also said taxes were paid on them. -- Fieger back on the stand during his federal trial in Detroit - Crain s Detroit Business

    May 21, 2008

    Alabama: Governor files Jurisdictional Statement in another Section 5 case

    Gov. Riley has filed his Jurisdictional Statement in Riley v. Plump. His questions presented are:

    1. Whether the decisions of a covered jurisdiction's highest court concerning the validity of a precleared state law, or, in the alternative, an appointment made by the Governor of the State in compliance with those decisions, requires preclearance pursuant to § 5 [of the Voting Rights Act].

    2. Whether § 5 requires preclearance of the implementation of a practice in force and effect on the coverage date of November 1, 1964.

    3. Whether the district court erred when it entered judgment after briefing and oral argument on the plaintiffs motion for preliminary injunction, without providing the notice required by Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 65(a)(2).

    This case relates to the appointment by the Governor of a commissioner to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission. It is somewhat similar to the Riley v. Kennedy case, no. 07-77, now awaiting decision.

    I have the honor of being one of the lawyers for Mr. Plump in this matter.

    Alabama: state supreme court to hear arguments on Jefferson County commission vacancy

    The Birmingham News reports: The dispute over who should be the District 1 representative on the Jefferson County Commission will be argued before the Alabama Supreme Court on June 4.

    The court set oral arguments in the appeal of Circuit Judge Scott Vowell s ruling in March that William Bell is entitled to hold the seat. The vacancy was created when Larry Langford resigned to become Birmingham s mayor.

    Bell, a Birmingham city council member, won a special election on Feb. 5, beating out five other candidates. -- Dispute over District 1 representative on the Jefferson County Commission to be argued before the state Alabama Supreme Court on June 4-

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

    May 20, 2008

    Michigan: prosecution rests in Fieger trial

    The Detroit News reports: The government on Monday closed its criminal case against high-profile Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger and his law partner Ven Johnson.

    The United States rest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland said after defense lawyers finished cross examining FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Rees, who spent four days in the witness box.

    Fieger, 57, and Johnson, 46, were indicted in 2007 on conspiracy and illegal campaign contribution charges. They are accused of making $127,000 in illegal donations to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards by reimbursing employees, employee relatives and law firm vendors. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice, a 10-year felony.

    Defense lawyers have acknowledged the political donations were reimbursed by Fieger and his firm and the key issue is whether Fieger and Johnson knowingly broke the law.

    In 15 days of testimony, defense attorneys have attempted to redirect the focus to the government s conduct, portraying Fieger as a man with a bullseye on his back because of his politics and pointing to the unusually large amount of government resources directed at a campaign finance prosecution. -- Feds rest case against Fieger

    May 13, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger paralegal says FBI bullied her

    The Detroit Free Press reports: A paralegal testified today that the FBI agent in charge of the criminal probe against Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger tried to bully her when he questioned her about contributions she made at Fieger’s behest to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

    Under cross-examination by Fieger defense lawyer Gerry Spence, SueEllen Sandner said she was so disgusted with the way FBI agent Jeffrey Rees treated her, she refused Monday to meet with a federal prosecutor in advance of today's testimony if Rees would be there.

    “He was fairly aggressive with me when I didn’t say the words he wanted me to say,” Sandner said of her first conversation with Rees in December 2005. He called her shortly after agents raided Fieger’s law firm looking for evidence that Fieger and law partner Vernon (Ven) Johnson recruited 64 people to contribute to Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign and reimbursed them with law firm funds.

    Defense lawyers have conceded that Fieger and Johnson reimbursed employees for contributing, but that the pair didn’t think they were breaking the law. Their lawyers have focused on federal investigative tactics. -- Paralegal: FBI agent tried to bully me in Fieger case

    May 12, 2008

    Texas: LULAC sues Texas Democratic Party over lack of Sec. 5 preclarance for "Texas two-step" (updated with court docs attached)

    AP reports: The Texas Democratic Party was sued Friday by Latino advocacy groups that contend the complicated primary and caucus system used in the March 4 presidential primary unfairly diluted Latino votes.

    The League of United Latin American Citizens of Texas and the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston sued in federal court, arguing the party failed to seek clearance required by the U.S. Justice Department for the so-called Texas Two Step. The groups also argue the system effectively discriminates against Latino voters by giving them fewer delegates.

    Texas Democrats distribute the state s 193 delegates using both a primary election and a caucus, but the distribution favors state Senate districts that had high voter turnout in the last presidential and gubernatorial elections.

    In the March 4 election, that meant predominantly Hispanic districts, where turnout was low in 2004 and 2006, got fewer delegates than others, particularly urban, predominantly black districts. Latino districts favored Hillary Clinton; black districts favored Barack Obama. -- LULAC sued Texas Democratic Party over primary delegates - El Paso Times

    Note: If anyone has a copy of the complaint, email it to me. The complaint may be downloaded here. Thanks to Jose Garza for responding to my request.

    May 8, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger firm lawyer admits reimbursement of contributors at another firm

    The Detroit Free Press reports: An attorney from Geoffrey Fieger’s law office, called as a prosecution witness to testify in the high profile lawyer’s federal trial for alleged illegal political fund-raising, told jurors today that he’d followed the same practices throughout his 24-year career.

    “I’ve done exactly what I’ve done at the Fieger firm that’s the subject of this litigation on numerous occasions through my legal career at another firm,” Jeffrey Danzig testified on direct examination.

    Fieger and partner Vernon (Ven) Johnson are charged with breaking campaign finance laws. Money was collected from employees, friends, relatives and other for the 2004 John Edwards presidential bid and the donations were then reimbursed by law firm checks.

    The times he’d done the same thing while at the Lopatin-Miller law office were “too many to count,” Danzing said in later cross-examination. -- Attorney working for Fieger: I've followed the same practices for 24 years

    May 3, 2008

    Colorado: slow preparations for convention security prompts suit by ACLU

    The New York Times reports: Groups planning parades or protests at the Democratic National Convention filed a lawsuit here on Friday charging that the Secret Service and the City of Denver are threatening free speech — not because of tight security rules, but by the very lack of them.

    The suit, filed in Federal District Court, says that delays in establishing legal parade routes, and unanswered questions about security arrangements around the convention center, are undermining efforts to plan for events when Democrats gather here from Aug. 25 to 28.

    Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which is representing 12 groups in the lawsuit, said they had no choice but to turn to the court. With just four months until the convention, the groups want a judge to speed the scheduling and the issuing of rules governing activities outside the Pepsi Center.

    At the Democratic convention in Boston in 2004, First Amendment challenges could not be addressed by judges, Mr. Silverstein said, because security measures were announced too late. -- Convention Preparations Prompt Suit by A.C.L.U. - New York Times

    April 30, 2008

    Florida: agreement allows voter registration organizations to keep registering til July

    From a press release via email: Today, the parties to LWV v. Browning, a lawsuit challenging Florida’s onerous restrictions on third-party voter registration, entered into a binding agreement filed in federal court. The agreement comes the day after plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order that would have barred state authorities from enforcing the restrictions. Under the agreement, Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning stated that he will not enforce the restrictions until the administrative rulemaking process is completed, which he estimates will occur no earlier than early July 2008. As a result, groups and individuals who conduct voter registration drives in Florida can proceed with their voter registration activities without fear of being fined under the law, until at least early July 2008.

    Plaintiffs to the lawsuit, League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida AFL-CIO, and Marilyn Wills, president of the Tallahassee League of Women Voters, are thrilled with this result.

    Plaintiffs are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Advancement Project, and by pro bono counsel Debevoise & Plimpton (representing the League of Women Voters of Florida), and Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.

    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

    New Jersey: independent reivew of e-voting machines approved

    Ars Techinca reports: In a decision issued last week, superior court judge Linda R. Feinberg ruled that a technical review of voting machines used in New Jersey may proceed despite the objections of the manufacturer, Sequoia Voting Systems.

    Serious problems emerged in five counties where Sequoia voting machines were used during the New Jersey presidential primaries. Audits conducted by election officials revealed that the electronic tallies didn t match the total counts from the paper trail generated by the machines. Sequoia attributes the problem to operator error and argued that it isn t indicative of a technical malfunction.

    In response to that glitch and other irregularities, election officials from Union County decided decided to subject the voting machines to an independent review. They went to Ed Felten, a voting machine security expert who serves as the director of Princeton s Center for Information Technology Policy. Although preliminary evidence from the audit indicated the potential presence of some serious malfunctions, Union County decided not to go forward with the review after receiving legal threats from Sequoia. The voting machine company claimed that an unauthorized third-party review would violate the county s license agreement. Sequoia also argued that unauthorized examinations expose the its proprietary trade secrets to public disclosure and threaten its intellectual property rights. -- Review of NJ e-voting approved; won t be in time for election

    Michigan: lawyer testifies he was reimbursed by Fieger firm, but was not pressured

    The Detroit News reports: A lawyer who works for indicted Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger testified Monday that Fieger s law firm reimbursed him for $8,000 in political donations he made on behalf of himself, his wife, and his two college-age children.

    But attorney Paul Broschay testified he was not promised he would be reimbursed for the checks he wrote to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards and would have donated to the Edwards campaign even if partners at the firm had not asked him to do so. He did not think he did anything illegal, Broschay told a jury in U.S. District Court.

    Fieger, 57, and his law partner, Ven Johnson, 46, were indicted in 2007 on conspiracy and illegal campaign contribution charges. They are accused of making $127,000 in illegal donations to the Edwards campaign by reimbursing employees, employee relatives and law firm vendors. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice, a 10-year felony. Both have pleaded not guilty. -- Fieger paid for political donation, lawyer testifies

    The Detroit Free Press explains how he can to testify: Paul Broschay, a former Detroit and Trenton police officer, said agents came to his home under the guise of serving a grand jury subpoena, but proceeded to play "good cop, bad cop" in hopes of getting him to say something damaging about Fieger and his law partner, Vernon (Ven) Johnson. Both men are on trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit on charges of illegally reimbursing 64 employees, friends, family members and vendors to contribute $127,000 to Edwards' ill-fated campaign.

    Broschay said he tried to cooperate at first, but asked the agents to leave after his daughter, then a Michigan State University student, called home and was hysterical because agents confronted her in her apartment.

    "It kinda pissed me off," said Broschay, who testified under a grant of immunity from federal prosecutors. -- Agents bullied me, Fieger lawyer says

    Florida: LWV sues over restrictions on voter-registration groups

    The New York Times reports: The League of Women Voters of Florida sued state election officials on Monday to challenge a law that fines voter registration groups for losing registration forms or returning them late.

    The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court here, is likely to amplify the political battle over a handful of laws that have tightened the rules for registration and voting in Florida.

    It comes less than two weeks after the league suspended its registration drive, fearing penalties of up to $1,000 per volunteer. And in its complaint, the group said the law “severely burdens efforts by the league and other plaintiffs to encourage civic engagement and strengthen democracy.”

    State officials have defended the law as an effort to preserve the integrity of the voter registration process. Jennifer Krell Davis, communications director for Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning, said Monday that she could not comment on the league’s complaint because she had not yet received it. -- Voting Group Sues Florida Over Penalties - New York Times

    Indiana: Supreme Court OKs voter I.D. law

    The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter identification law on Monday, concluding in a splintered decision that the challengers failed to prove that the law’s photo ID requirement placed an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

    The 6-to-3 ruling kept the door open to future lawsuits that provided more evidence. But this theoretical possibility was small comfort to the dissenters or to critics of voter ID laws, who predicted that a more likely outcome than successful lawsuits would be the spread of measures that would keep some legitimate would-be voters from the polls.

    Voting experts said the ruling was likely to complicate election administration, leading to both more litigation and more legislation, at least in states with Republican legislative majorities, but would probably have a limited impact on this year’s presidential voting.

    The issue has been intensely partisan, with Republicans supporting increased identification requirements for voters and Democrats opposing them. In what the court described as the “lead opinion,” which was written by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court acknowledged that the record of the case contained “no evidence” of the type of voter fraud the law was ostensibly devised to detect and deter, the effort by a voter to cast a ballot in another person’s name. ...

    The three others who made up the majority, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said in an opinion by Justice Scalia that the law was so obviously justified as “a generally applicable, nondiscriminatory voting regulation” that there was no basis for scrutinizing the record to assess the impact on any individual voters. “This is an area where the dos and don’ts need to be known in advance of the election,” Justice Scalia said. -- In a 6-to-3 Vote, Justices Uphold a Voter ID Law

    Nina Totenberg on NPR has a good roundup of interviews with Rick Hasen, Pam Karlan, and others.

    The Washington Post had a live discussion with Roy Schotland yesterday. The Post has an article today.

    Joan Biskupic has an article in USA Today.

    April 26, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger criminal trial opens

    TalkLeft reports: Flamboyant attorney and legal analyst Geoff Fieger, perhaps best known for his defense of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is on trial in federal court in Detroit. He and his law partner, Van Johnson, are charged with having employees at their law firm and others donate to John Edwards' presidential campaign and then reimbursing them, in violation of federal campaign laws. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly concealing a memo and tampering with grand jury witnesses. -- Gerry Spence Opens for Fieger in MI Criminal Trial - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

    April 22, 2008

    Pennsylvania: polls will close on time, judge rules reports: Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Ramy Djerassi has rejected a request to extend Philadelphia poll hours to 10 p.m., and to distribute emergency paper ballots to all precincts where there have been reports of broken voting machines. -- Judge: Polls Will Close As Scheduled | Philly | 04/22/2008

    Voter Action, a national voter rights group, has asked a Philadelphia judge to extend voting hours tonight until 10 p.m., and to use paper ballots at all voting places where broken machines have been reported. The city's Board of Elections seems certain to object. The hearing is expected to begin momentarily. -- Voter Group Requests Extended Poll Hours

    April 17, 2008

    New Jersey: Andrews sues for proper ballot position

    Politiker NJ reports: Rob Andrews wants to render Frank Lautenberg’s county line advantage obsolete.

    Andrews announced today that he’s filing suit against 13 mostly northern county clerks to seek a “fair and open Democratic primary” that requires county clerks give “fair and equal” ballot position to both U.S. Senate candidates at the State Superior Court. The challenge was first reported on the liberal Web site Blue Jersey.

    While Andrews has the county line in seven southern counties, Lautenberg has the line in the 12 other counties that award it -- a big advantage in a primary with an expected low turnout.

    Andrews cited a state statute, N.J.S.A. 19:23-26.1, that says primary candidates for Senate or Governor must appear in the first column and apart from candidates for lower offices. -- Andrews sues for an open primary | Politicker NJ

    Alabama: federal court grants 1 more month of a free pass on VRA violation (court docs attached)

    The Birmingham News reports:
    A panel of three federal judges granted Gov. Bob Riley s request Wednesday to extend George Bowman s tenure as a Jefferson County commissioner, but not for as long as the governor wanted.

    Riley now has until May 19 to get clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice for his appointment of Bowman to the District 1 vacancy on the County Commission. ...

    Last week Riley asked the federal panel to extend its deadline until after the U.S. Supreme Court and Alabama Supreme Court decide separate cases challenging the governor's contention that only he has the authority to fill vacancies when commissioners leave office early.

    In Wednesday's order, the judges denied Riley that much time, but said a shorter extension is reasonable. -- George Bowman gets one-month extension as Jefferson County commissioner-

    Note and Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for the plaintiff. The order is

    April 14, 2008

    Idaho: GOP files suit against open primary system (court docs linked)

    Update: Steve Rankin has sent me a link to the complaint.

    Free Citizen blog reports: In an open primary, a party's primary ballot is available to any voter who wants it. There are two types of open primaries: Mississippi is one of the 13 states with "open primary, public record," meaning that each primary voter's choice of party is publicly recorded. Idaho, in contrast, is one of the eight states with "open primary, private choice": each primary voter picks a party in secret, and no record is made of this choice. ...

    The recently-ended session of the heavily-Republican Idaho legislature failed to pass legislation modifying the primary election law. The Senate did pass a bill, 20-15, to switch to "open primary, public record," but the House refused to consider it. The Republican governor opposes changing the primary setup, as the state GOP chairman also steadfastly has. The chairman is up for re-election at the state convention in June, and he may have a contest from former state Sen. Rod Beck, who has spearheaded the efforts to change the primary election law.

    Late Friday, the Republican Party filed a new federal lawsuit against the state-mandated open primary. The Idaho GOP will be able to cite U. S. District Judge Allen Pepper's 2007 ruling that Mississippi's open primary law is unconstitutional. If the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agrees with Pepper, the Idaho Republicans will also be able to cite that decision. Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour. -- Free Citizen: Idaho Republicans Again Challenge Open Primary Law

    DNC will sue FEC today over McCain (court docs linked)

    Update: The suit has been filed and the complaint is available here.

    UPI reports: The Democratic National Committee wants to get its dispute with John McCain s campaign on public financing into the U.S. courts, party officials said.

    The committee plans to file suit Monday, asking the U.S. District Court in Washington to order the Federal Election Commission to investigate McCain s decision to reject public financing for the primary, The New York Times reported.

    The six-member commission has four vacancies and is unable to take any action because it cannot meet with a quorum. The Democratic majority in Congress has objected to some of President George W. Bush s reappointments. -- Democrats want to sue McCain over loan -

    April 11, 2008

    West Virginia: arguments in case strict disclosure requirements for political ads

    The Charleston Gazette reports: Anonymous advertising in West Virginia political campaigns would open the door for a repeat of the 2004 Supreme Court race, where voters did not learn until later who was spending millions of dollars on behalf of candidates, several lawyers told a federal judge Wednesday.

    But the Center for Individual Freedom argued that West Virginia s election laws - which require the group to disclose its donors if it buys political advertising - violate its free speech rights under the First Amendment.

    The Virginia-based organization asked U.S. District Judge David A. Faber to grant it an injunction allowing it to advertise in the upcoming state Supreme Court election without disclosing its spending or its donors. The state s primary election is May 13.

    Last month, the center filed a lawsuit against the state s top election official, Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Boggess was also NAMEd in the suit as a representative of all the state s prosecutors.

    Three of the four Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court have joined in fighting the injunction, as have the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the state Education Association, the Council of Churches and other groups. -- Lawyers argue over rules for political ads

    Arizona: appeals court upholds legislative districting plan

    The Arizona Republic reports: The boundaries of the state s legislative districts for this fall s elections will remain the same as they have been for the past three years.

    That s the immediate impact of a state Court of Appeals ruling handed down Thursday in a redistricting dispute.

    And it could spell the end of the seven-year legal battle, since any continued fight would only affect legislative elections in 2010. After that, a new census is taken and new lines are drawn.

    The court rejected an appeal from a coalition of Latinos and Democrats who claimed the map outlining Arizona s 30 legislative districts was drawn without consideration of the districts competitiveness. -- State s legislative-district boundaries to remain same

    The court's opinion is on its website, Arizona Minority Coalition v. Arizona IRC, CA-CV 07-0301.

    April 10, 2008

    Mississippi: blacks' suit wants students excluded from Hattiesburg district numbers

    The Hattiesburg American reports: A decision on whether Hattiesburg s City Council wards should be redrawn now rests with U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett.

    The trial of a 2006 lawsuit against the city ended Wednesday with the city s attorneys not calling any witnesses.

    Starrett did not provide a date for a decision but gave attorneys for both sides 30 days to submit written arguments. The plaintiffs attorney is Ellis Turnage; representing the city is Jerry Mills. ...

    The group of black residents who filed the lawsuit want Starrett to eliminate college students from the mix and redistrict the city in accordance with 2006 data that suggest blacks would comprise at least 55 percent of the total voting age population when transient students are excluded.

    The lawsuit says the City Council unfairly included more than 3,000 transient University of Southern Mississippi students in the equation used to draw Hattiesburg s 2002 redistricting plan.

    They argue that including the students in the city s voting age population dilutes the strength of black voters. -- Hattiesburg American - - Hattiesburg, Miss.

    The complaint can be downloaded here.

    Alabama: Governor asks for stay pending appeal in Jefferson County case (court documents attached)

    The Birmingham News reports: Gov. Bob Riley asked a panel of federal judges Tuesday to grant Jefferson County Commissioner George Bowman more time in office while other courts decide legal disputes over who fills county commission vacancies.

    Cases are pending before the Alabama Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court over whether the new commissioner should be chosen by the governor or elected by voters.

    Riley appointed Bowman in November to the District 1 seat on the Jefferson County Commission, after Larry Langford resigned to become Birmingham s mayor. -- Alabama Gov. Bob Riley asks for extension to keep Jefferson County Commission seat filled as courts rule-

    Note and disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the plaintiff in this case. Governor Riley's motion is here.

    April 4, 2008

    Indiana: Terre Haute mayoral election approved even though winning candidate was violating Hatch Act

    The Tribune Star reports: The battle for Terre Haute City Hall continues with the latest shots coming from Mayor Duke Bennett’s legal team.

    Lawyers for Bennett filed a new appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals this week asking the court to overturn Vigo Circuit Court Judge David Bolk’s Dec. 21 ruling that Bennett was subject to the Hatch Act while he was running for mayor.

    Former Mayor Kevin Burke, who lost the Nov. 6 election to Bennett by 110 votes, earlier had appealed another part of Bolk’s ruling. Burke appealed the part that allowed Bennett to take office because he was no longer in violation of the Hatch Act when he took office on Jan. 1. ...

    Burke contended that Bennett should not have been eligible to run for mayor because he worked as director of operations at the Hamilton Center, a not-for-profit mental health organization that receives federal funding through its Head Start program. The Hatch Act is a federal law that limits the political activity of employees of some not-for-profits that receive federal money.

    In December, Bolk ruled Bennett was indeed subject to the Hatch Act; however, Bolk also ruled that Bennett would no longer be in violation of the Act when he took office as mayor. As a result, Bennett took office as mayor. In his ruling, Bolk also noted other avenues had existed for challenging Bennett’s candidacy before Election Day. -- Bennett’s lawyers file new Hatch ruling appeal

    April 3, 2008

    Kansas: Voter I.D. bill in conference committee

    Harris News Service reports: Democratic and Republican negotiators clashed Wednesday over how strict to make legislation requiring most voters under age 65 to show photo identification to cast a ballot.

    A conference committee of six lawmakers, three from each the House and Senate, have started discussing what elements to include in a compromise bill designed to pass both legislative chambers.

    Each body has passed its own legislation enacting a photo ID requirement but the Senate s proposal is more stringent than the House-backed measure that passed last week.

    The two Democrats on the panel, though, suggested that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was likely to veto either measure. They urged Republican negotiators to proceed with what they say are less onerous ID requirements that have a better chance of becoming law. -- Hutchinson News Online

    Iowa: judge enjoins Sec of State over English-only law

    The Des Moines Register reports: A Polk County District Court judge has ordered Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro to stop using languages other than English in the state’s official voter registration forms.

    Judge Douglas Staskal ruled in favor of U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, who sued state officials last year, contending they were violating the state’s English-language law. He brought the suit against Gov. Chet Culver, who previously served as secretary of state, and Mauro, contending they had placed illegal voting forms on the secretary of state’s Web site.

    The dispute began shortly before Election Day in 2006, when King demanded that Culver remove voting information in languages other than English from the Web site. The site offered information in Spanish, Laotian, Bosnian and Vietnamese.

    Non-English voter forms were removed from the the state's Web site late Thursday afternoon.

    King, a former state senator, said the materials were illegal because under an English-language law authored by King and signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2002, all official government communications must be in English. -- Judge: Iowa voting forms violate official English law | | The Des Moines Register

    Florida: 11th Circuit reverses injunction on new registration law

    In Florida State Conference of the NAACP v. Browning, the 11th Circuit has reversed the injunction against Florida's voter registration law. Here is the opening paragraph of the decision:

    This is an appeal of a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a Florida voter registration statute as being preempted by two different federal statutes. The state law would require as a precondition of registering to vote for the first time in Florida that the voter disclose her driver’s license number or the last four digits of her Social Security number on the registration application, and that this number match up with the number for this voter contained in the state driver’s license database or the Social Security Administration’s database, respectively. The district court held that plaintiffs, several organizations representing the interests of minority communities in Florida, had standing to challenge the statute, would likely succeed at trial on the merits of their claim that federal law preempts the enforcement of the state law, and would suffer irreparable injury absent provisional relief. Accordingly, the court preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of the state statute. We affirm the district court’s decision on plaintiffs’ standing to prosecute this action and reverse its decision granting the preliminary injunction.

    March 27, 2008

    Alabama: Siegelman released pending appeal

    The Birmingham News reports: A federal appellate court today ordered former Gov. Don Siegelman released from prison while he appeals his 2006 conviction, but denied co-defendant Richard Scrushy s request to be released.

    Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn said Siegelman would be released sometime Friday morning. His wife and his daughter, Dana, are driving out to get him, Kilborn said.

    Scrushy attorney Art Leach said he had been told the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Scrushy s request, but had no more details this evening.

    Siegelman has been in an Oakdale, La., prison camp for nearly nine months. A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman and Scrushy of federal funds bribery. Prosecutors alleged Scrushy bought a seat on a state board with a $500,000 donation to Siegelman s lottery campaign.

    The judges wrote that Siegelman met both requirements for an appeal bond: He is not a flight risk and his appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal or an order for a new trial. -- Siegelman to be released from prison, Scrushy must stay in - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

    Puerto Rico: Governor indicted for campaign-finance violations

    AP reports: Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila indignantly denied wrongdoing Thursday and gave no sign he would abandon his re-election effort after being charged with campaign finance violations that carry a penalty of 20 years in prison.

    Acevedo, a superdelegate to this summer's Democratic convention, accused U.S. prosecutors of pursuing a politically motivated indictment alleging that the governor and a dozen other people conspired to illegally pay off his campaign debts. ...

    Acevedo served in Washington as the island's nonvoting delegate to Congress then was elected governor in 2004 after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform. ...

    In a brief address on Puerto Rican television Thursday evening, he repeated his denials and accused U.S. authorities of distracting him from trying to revive the island's struggling economy. "They want blood not your well being," he said of federal prosecutors. The governor did not take questions.

    His indictment on 19 charges, including conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws, conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and giving false testimony to the FBI, made him the latest U.S. governor to run into legal trouble. -- Feds charge P.Rico governor, 12 others - Yahoo! News

    March 25, 2008

    Alabama: Supreme Court hears arguments in Riley v. Kennedy

    AP reports: Supreme Court justices expressed skepticism Monday about the federal government s authority to block the governor of Alabama s appointment of a fellow Republican to a vacant county commission seat representing a mostly black and heavily Democratic district.

    The case is over whether Gov. Bob Riley needed clearance from the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires Alabama and several other states -- most of them in the South -- to get federal approval before changing election procedures that affect minority voters. ...

    Local Democrats challenged the appointment, arguing that a special election should have been held as in the past and that Riley's decision amounted to just the kind of voting-rights change that requires Justice Department approval.

    Last January, the Justice Department agreed and said Riley's appointment appeared to weaken minority voters. Later, a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in Montgomery ruled that Riley's move was unlawful and vacated the appointment. -- High court questions federal authority over Alabama in governor s pick - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

    Alabama: Supreme Court argument transcript in Riley v. Kennedy

    Here is the transcript of Monday's argument in 07-77.pdf , Riley v. Kennedy.

    March 22, 2008

    Alabama: Gov. Riley appeals Jefferson County case to U.S. Supreme Court

    Governor Riley has filed a long-winded notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court from the Judgment in Plump v. Riley.

    California: man arrested for voter registration fraud

    CBS 13 in Sacramento reports: A man suspected of state voter registration fraud was arrested on Sac State's campus. Accused of signing up fake people to vote!

    Why would there be a manhunt by the election fraud unit of the Secretary of State for this mystery guy, 45-year-old Don Cornell Williams.

    He's known by state officials for registering voters in Southern California.

    "That's what he does for a living," says Corey, a friend of the suspect. ...

    Corey says some unknown organization pays Williams to get signatures. He says Williams told him gets cash for every signature or registered voter card he turns in. Yesterday the state election fraud unit got a tip Williams was at Sac State trying to register more people. They asked campus police to capture him on a warrant out of Orange County for completing voter registration cards using false names. -- - Man Arrested For State Voter Registration Fraud

    Alabama: voters who object to voting appeal to get quick overturn approving the vote

    The Birmingham News reports: Three Jefferson County residents asked the Alabama Supreme Court Thursday to quickly overturn a Circuit Court judge's ruling that William Bell is entitled to be the District 1 county commissioner.

    Lawyers for Patricia Working, Rick Erdemir and Floyd McGinnis filed a notice of appeal to the state's high court and recommended a March 28 deadline for written legal arguments.

    They requested an expedited review of Judge Scott Vowell's ruling Tuesday against them and Gov. Bob Riley in a dispute over how to fill the commission seat held by Larry Langford before he resigned to become Birmingham's mayor. -- Jefferson County residents ask Alabama high court to quickly overturn county commissioner ruling-

    Alabama: Jefferson County special election upheld, judge rules

    The Birmingham News reports: William Bell is entitled to be the District 1 representative on the Jefferson County Commission, Circuit Court Judge Scott Vowell ruled Tuesday.

    The case will next go to the Alabama Supreme Court. The state's high court must lift an injunction before county election officials can certify Bell as the winner of the Feb. 5 special election to replace Larry Langford.

    Three county residents, only one of whom lived in District 1, challenged the election date in a suit filed Jan. 31. Albert Jordan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he would file an appeal today. ...

    Vowell's decision Tuesday upheld a state law that allows special elections - in Jefferson County only - when an office is vacated. The judge also ruled that Gov. Bob Riley did not have authority to appoint George Bowman to the commission. ...

    A spokeswoman for Riley said he also would appeal. -- Judge rules William Bell is District 1 representative on Jefferson County Commission; case goes to state Supreme Court-

    March 20, 2008

    Alabama: preview of Riley v. Kennedy argument

    Thomas Haymore, one the Stanford Law School students who did such great work on our brief, has written this summary of the case for ScotusWiki.

    March 19, 2008

    Alabama: Hale County ex-clerk indicted in absentee vote fraud

    The Birmingham News reports: Former Hale County Circuit Court Clerk Gay Nell Tinker has been indicted on multiple vote fraud-related charges.

    A Hale County grand jury issued a 13-count indictment against Tinker after receiving evidence from the Attorney General s Office.

    Investigators for years have been looking into voting irregularities in the west-central Black Belt county, and grand juries have indicted others on vote-fraud charges. ...

    According to King's office, the indictment charges Tinker with nine counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, an absentee voter affidavit; two counts of promoting illegal absentee voting by intentionally soliciting or otherwise promoting illegal absentee voting, and two counts of first-degree perjury by falsely certifying who signed an absentee voter affidavit. -- Former Hale County circuit clerk indicted-

    March 18, 2008

    New Hampshire: Tobin acquitted of phone-jamming; US appeals

    The Union Leader reports: The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing the acquittal last month of former national Republican Party official James Tobin on telephone harassment charges stemming from the illegal GOP phone-jamming operation of Election Day, 2002.

    U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe cleared Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, on Feb. 21, saying that he had been constrained by a 2007 appeals court ruling to conclude Tobin was entitled to acquittal. McAuliffe predicted then that the legal question at issue would eventually be addressed by the appellate court.

    Federal prosecutors filed a notice of appeal this week.

    The appeals court a year ago overturned Tobin s 2005 conviction on two felony telephone harassment charges stemming from the phone-jamming scheme and sent the case back to McAuliffe s trial court for review of whether Tobin s role had fit the crime with which he had been charged and convicted. Tobin was not required to serve any of his 10-month prison sentence. -- - New Hampshire news - Appeals court called in Tobin acquittal - Saturday, Mar. 15, 2008

    March 14, 2008

    9th Circuit: vote-swapping is legal

    The National Law Journal reports: Third-party candidates take note for the upcoming presidential election: The First Amendment protects vote-swapping arrangements.

    The short-circuited campaign in 2000 to arrange vote trading between supporters of presidential candidates Al Gore and Ralph Nader died when California election officials threatened the online sites with vote buying charges.

    A federal appeals court back in December said California's action violated the free speech rights of people who wanted to swap votes. On Thursday the full court refused to back off that position, over the objection of three conservative judges, Porter v. Bowen, 06-55517.

    Judge Andrew Kleinfeld of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the practice vote buying plain and simple, and thus illegal. But only two other judges joined his dissent from the full court's denial of en banc reconsideration March 13. It takes 14 votes to win reconsideration. -- - Vote-Swapping Arrangements Protected by First Amendment

    March 11, 2008

    Alabama: Gov. Riley files reply brief in Riley v. Kennedy

    Gov. Riley has filed his reply brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Riley v. Kennedy. This is the Section 5 case that will be argued on 24 March.

    Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for Dr. Kennedy and the other plaintiffs in this action.

    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

    February 26, 2008

    Colorado: comprehensive gift ban will go into effect, for now

    The Rocky Mountain News reports: A Monday court ruling on Amendment 41, the controversial law that limits gifts to government workers, failed to clarify the measure and leaves the door wide open for more court challenges.

    The state Supreme Court reinstated the gift ban and ordered a lower court to remove an injunction it issued in June.

    But in its ruling, the court declined to comment on the larger issue of whether the gift ban is constitutional. ...

    The state's high court said it's too early to challenge the state constitutional amendment, approved by voters in November 2006, because an ethics commission charged with enforcing the measure hasn't completely formed yet. ...

    Amendment 41 was designed to reduce the influence of lobbyists and interest groups on government. It bans all gifts from lobbyists and limits other gifts and services to no more than $50 per year. Elected officials, state and certain local government workers and their children and spouses are subject to the law. In addition, elected officials cannot take lobbying jobs until two years after leaving office. -- Gift ban restored, but ruling leaves much unsettled : Updates : The Rocky Mountain News

    February 24, 2008

    Puerto Rico: feds may be investigating governor's campaign finances

    The New York Times reports: The rumors wash up against the gray walls of La Fortaleza, the governor’s palace in this city’s colonial quarter, with the regularity of the ocean’s waves. Every few weeks they seem to gather momentum, like a tidal surge, and threaten to overwhelm the place and its occupant, Gov. Aníbal S. Acevedo Vilá.

    At one moment, the word on the street is that the governor will be arrested before the weekend. At the next, he will be spared, though several of his close associates will fall.

    And so it has gone for more than two years while federal investigators have looked into accusations of campaign finance violations relating to Mr. Acevedo, a Democrat, who is up for re-election this year. ...

    The federal authorities have refused to make any statements about the case; what is known publicly about the investigation has been gleaned through leaks and the scant information provided by witnesses who have testified before the grand jury. According to those witnesses, investigators have asked about the finances of Mr. Acevedo’s 2004 race for governor and about his successful campaign in 2000 to become the resident commissioner, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate to Congress. (Mr. Acevedo has said that if there were improprieties in his campaigns, he was not aware of them.) -- Puerto Rico’s Political Melodrama Plays On, With Its Governor in the Lead Role

    Alabama: supreme court dismisses suit challenging election of 4 Democratic senators

    AP reports: The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday upheld a Montgomery judge s decision to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the election of four powerful Democrats in the Alabama Senate.

    The court s 8-1 decision ends a lawsuit that became part of the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of the new Senate elected in 2006. Democrats won that battle and organized the Senate. ...
    Former Republican judge Mark Montiel filed the suit about three weeks before the 2006 general election on behalf of an Autauga County voter. It sought to revoke the state certificates of election for the four senators from the Democratic primary election in June 2006. The suit claimed the four Democrats did not file the proper campaign finance reports for the primary even though they spent money to help other legislative candidates.

    The four senators said they didn't have primary opposition and the practice in Alabama up to that point was not to file campaign finance reports when there was no opposition. -- Alabama Supreme Court tosses lawsuit challenging senators wins | | Times Daily | Florence, AL

    February 22, 2008

    Arizona: Renzi indicted

    ABC News reports: A federal grand jury in Arizona has indicted three-term Republican Congressman Rick Renzi and two of his business associates on charges that include wire fraud, money laundering, insurance fraud and extortion.

    The 35-count indictment alleges that between December 2001 and March 2002, Renzi embezzled $400,000 in insurance premiums from a company that he owned and transferred the money to his congressional campaign.

    Renzi transferred ownership of the company, called Patriot Insurance Agency Inc., to his wife in 2004.

    The lawmaker is also accused of enriching himself by compelling a copper mining interest, referred to as "Company A" in the indictment, to buy a parcel of land from his associate James Sandlin in exchange for his sponsorship of legislation sought by Company A.

    When negotiations for the sale were stalled, Renzi allegedly told Company A "no Sandlin Property, no bill." -- ABC News: Congressman Indicted for Fraud, Extortion

    Alabama: schedule set for challenge to special election for Jefferson County commission

    The Birmingham News reports: A Jefferson County judge said Thursday he wanted to resolve by April a legal dispute over this month s District 1 Jefferson County commission special election.

    Until then, certification of William Bell as winner of the Feb. 5 special election will remain on hold and George Bowman, Gov. Bob Riley s appointee to the post, will remain in the District 1 seat.

    Three voters filed suit in Circuit Court in late January saying the Feb. 5 election date was illegal. They contend it should be held during the statewide primary vote on June 3. Qualifying for Jefferson County offices in that race begins in April.

    Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court blocked the county s election commission from certifying Bell as winner of the Feb. 5 election.

    On Wednesday, the state s high court ordered Circuit Judge Scott Vowell to make a ruling on whether the lawsuit has any legal merit.

    Since the case was filed, Bell has been added as a defendant and another candidate, Fred Plump, has joined the case to argue that the Feb. 5 election date was legal. -- Jefferson County judge sets April deadline for ruling on William Bell commission seat dispute-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent Mr. Plump.

    February 20, 2008

    Alabama: amicus brief supporting voters in Riley v. Kennedy

    Amicus briefs have been filed supporting the Kennedy plaintiffs in Riley v. Kennedy, No. 07-77, in the US Supreme Court:

    United States


    Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

    NAACP Legal Defense Fund

    Note: as additional amici file (Wednesday is the deadline), I will add them to this post.

    February 14, 2008

    Alabama: renewed challenge to special election for Jefferson County Commission

    The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County voters challenging the Feb. 5 County Commission special election have renewed their call for a judge to declare the vote illegal before William Bell is certified Friday as the winner.

    Court documents filed Tuesday and Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court and the Alabama Supreme Court say certifying the election would cause irreparable harm to voters.

    Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said Wednesday he does not plan to change an earlier ruling that he lacks the legal authority to hear the case. The state's high court did not respond Wednesday.

    Bell, a Birmingham city councilman, won the special election for the District 1 seat after five other candidates failed to force a runoff.

    Under Alabama law, Bell will be declared the official winner Friday at noon if a court does not intervene. -- Challenge of William Bell's Jefferson County Commission election renewed-

    A copy of the supplemental memo filed by the plaintiffs in Working v. Jefferson County Election Commission is here.

    February 2, 2008

    Alabama: updated article on Jefferson County ruling

    The Birmingham News reports: A Jefferson County judge declined to act Friday on an emergency request to block officials from certifying the votes in Tuesday's special election for the Jefferson County District 1 commission seat.

    In a four-page order, Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said he did not have jurisdiction in the case because plaintiffs Patricia Working and Rick Erdemir did not serve the state attorney general's office or candidates seeking the commission seat.

    Vowell's ruling stemmed from a request filed Thursday evening on behalf of the two District 1 residents who sued the Jefferson County Election Commission and Probate Judge Alan King, Sheriff Mike Hale, Circuit Clerk Anne-Marie Adams, and the commission members. Vowell heard arguments Friday morning.

    The commission set the election to fill the seat left vacant after Larry Langford became Birmingham's mayor. -- Judge does not rule in emergency bid to keep Jeffco officials from certifying District 1 commission vote results-

    February 1, 2008

    Alabama: state judge refuses request to stop special commission election [court docs attached]

    The Birmingham News website reports: A Jefferson County judge Friday afternoon did not decide on an emergency request to block officials from canvassing the votes in Tuesday's special election for the Jefferson County District 1 commission seat.

    In a four-page order, Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said he did not have jurisdiction in the case because the plaintiffs did not serve the state attorney general's office or candidates seeking the commission seat. The judge put the case on hold.

    Vowell's ruling stemmed from a request filed Thursday evening on behalf of two Jefferson County voters, Patricia Working and Rick Erdemir, who filed suited against the Jefferson County Election Commission.

    Vowell heard arguments this morning. -- Judge decides he has no jurisdiction in Jeffco commission case - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

    Disclosure: I represent Fred Plump, one of the candidates in the special election.

    Download the complaint and the order here.

    Alabama: Jefferson County may end up with too many commissioners

    The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County residents in District 1 could have two commissioners claiming a right to represent them after Tuesday's election for the commission seat.

    The scenario hinges on several variables, including the outcome of the election and the next chapter in a legal battle over whether the seat should be filled by appointment.

    But if two people do claim a right to the post, a judge likely would intervene and dictate a temporary resolution, said John Carroll, dean of Samford University's Cumberland School of Law.

    "Somebody would go to state court and ask them to jump in, and the state court would have to do something to resolve that on a temporary basis," he said.

    The conflict could arise if retired Army Gen. George Bowman, whom Gov. Bob Riley appointed to the seat, loses the election and claims a right to the post by appointment. But that may depend on Riley's next move in the legal challenge to his appointment. -- Jefferson County's District 1: Two commissioners?-

    Scott Stantis, the News' editorial cartoonist, has a cartoon on the situation.

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent Mr, Plump, the plaintiff in the federal suit.

    January 29, 2008

    Ohio: ACLU sues to block touch-screens (court docs linked)

    UPI reports: A rights group filed a legal challenge on voting technology to be used in and around Cleveland in the March 4 presidential primary elections.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed the challenge Monday in U.S. District Court to Cuyahoga County's move back to paper ballots away from electronic touch-screen systems, a release on the group's Web site stated. ...

    A hearing was set for Tuesday on the ACLU's request for an injunction, the report said. -- Ohio ACLU challenges primary ballots -

    The ACLU website has the press release and court documents.

    January 26, 2008

    Alabama: federal court clarifies its order on Riley's appointment of Jefferson County Commissioner [court docs attached]

    The Birmingham News reports: Three federal judges who ruled Gov. Bob Riley needed federal approval before naming a Jefferson County Commission replacement issued a clarification Friday outlining how long appointee George Bowman can remain in the position.

    The three-judge panel initially issued an opinion and two-page judgment Tuesday. Lawyers in the dispute over Riley's appointment of Bowman then asked for clarification.

    In Friday's filing, the judges say if Riley chooses to immediately appeal the ruling and notifies the court by Feb. 5 - the date of Jefferson County's special election - Bowman's appointment will be voided the same day without further order.

    If Riley notifies the court by Feb. 5 that he will seek Justice Department approval of his appointing power, Riley would have 90 days, until about April 21, to receive the OK or Bowman would be out. -- Bowman term may end Feb.5-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this case.

    The plaintiff's motion to alter the judgment is here. Download the Governor's response here. Download the Court's amended judgment here.

    January 25, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger to get recusal information in his campaign finance trial

    The Detroit News reports: A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Justice Department to tell indicted Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger why U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy and two of his top officials disqualified themselves from overseeing Fieger s criminal investigation.

    It s a partial victory for Fieger -- charged with making $127,000 in illegal donations to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards -- as he attempts to show he was unfairly singled out for prosecution because of his politics.

    The information is quite relevant and essential to that claim, U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman said in a 30-page order.

    Borman said he has not decided whether Fieger was unfairly singled out, but said he finds it significant that contributions related to a re-election campaign for Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman have been part of the federal investigation of Fieger since the probe began in April 2005. -- Judge s ruling favors Fieger

    North Carolina: federal court hears GOP arguments to stop legislative primaries

    AP reports: Elections must be delayed in North Carolina because boundaries for dozens of state House and Senate voting districts are unconstitutional, a lawyer representing a group of Republican voters told federal judges Friday.

    The voters' lawsuit accuses state lawmakers of intentionally using incorrect population figures when they redrew district lines in 2003, and asks that the maps be corrected before elections are held for the General Assembly this year.

    The candidate filing season is supposed to begin Feb. 11. State attorneys supported the maps and said granting the voters' request would delay all the May 6 primary elections, which include races for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House, in addition to state legislative races.

    "There comes a point when it's that close to an election and you just cannot stop the train," Alexander Peters, a special deputy attorney general said during 2 1/2 hours of arguments at the New Bern federal courthouse. "It's too late to stop the election, even if (the maps) are ultimately found to be unconstitutional."

    The voters, who sued the state in November, said legislative leaders used incorrect census data when they knew updated data was available. The adjusted district boundaries have been used since the 2004 elections. -- - AP Article Page

    January 24, 2008

    Alabama: Riley likely to appeal federal court ruling on power to appoint Jefferson County commissioner (court doc attached)

    The Birmingham News reports: Gov. Bob Riley on Wednesday said he likely will appeal a ruling by a panel of three federal judges that said Riley needed approval from the U.S. Justice Department to appoint George Bowman to the Jefferson County Commission, approval he didn't seek.

    "Right now, I think we'll probably appeal it," Riley said, adding that he likely would decide for sure "within the next few days," after meeting with lawyers.

    Also Wednesday, Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis, said lawyers in the dispute over Bowman disagree on the meaning of the judges' ruling and what it said about Bowman's right to remain on the commission. ...

    Ed Still, an attorney for Plump, filed a motion with the panel Wednesday, saying he believed the opinion and judgment said different things about how long Bowman might remain on the county commission.

    "I think it's just an editing error," Still said, adding that he wanted the panel to clear it up. -- Alabama Gov. Bob Riley likely to appeal judicial ruling on Jefferson County Commission appointment-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff.

    You may download the motion here.

    January 23, 2008

    Alabama: federal court rules, Governor must seek preclearance in order to appoint a commissioner in Jefferson County (news story)

    The Birmingham News reports: A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that Gov. Bob Riley should have obtained federal approval before filling the Jefferson County Commission's District 1 seat, but the judges did not immediately remove his appointee, George Bowman, from office.

    Meanwhile, a Jefferson County election official said the Feb. 5 election to fill the seat vacated by Larry Langford, scheduled since October, will proceed.

    The three federal judges gave Riley until Feb. 5 - the date of Jefferson County's special election - to file a notice that he intends to appeal their decision or that he intends to seek Justice Department approval of his power to appoint a replacement.

    If Riley notifies the court on or before Feb. 5, Riley will be given 90 days to get the Justice Department's approval. If Riley misses that deadline, the judges said, Bowman's appointment will be set aside. -- Judges rule Alabama Governor Bob Riley needed federal OK to appoint Jefferson County commissioner-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this case.

    January 22, 2008

    Alabama: four amicus briefs filed on Governor's side in Section 5 Supreme Court appeal (court docs attached) [updated]

    Two Four amicus briefs have been filed today supporting Gov. Riley's position in Riley v. Kennedy, a Section 5 case. More later.

    You can download the briefs here: Thernstrom brief , Project on Fair Representation, Charles Fried brief, and the brief of Florida and several other states.

    Disclosure:I am one of the lawyers for Kennedy et al. in this case.

    Alabama: fed court rules, Governor must seek preclearance in order to appoint a commissioner in Jefferson County (court docs attached)

    The 3-judge district court has ruled for the plaintiff in Plump v. Riley. More on this later.

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this case.

    The opinion and judgment are attached.

    North Carolina: GOP sues for re-redistricting of legislative districts (court docs attached)

    AP reports: It's another election season and North Carolina voters could again be confused by a redistricting lawsuit that alleges state legislative boundaries drawn by the General Assembly are illegal.

    If a federal three-judge panel in New Bern sides this week with a group of Republican voters who sued after a state Supreme Court decision last year involving one state House district, the May 6 primary election could be delayed.

    And not just the legislative races _ state law requires that primaries for governor, Council of State races, U.S. Senate and U.S. House also would have to be rescheduled for the same date. And the presidential primaries also set for May 6 would be in jeopardy.

    Legislative redistricting litigation delayed two of the three previous even-numbered year primaries, in 2002 and 2004. -- Redistricting lawsuit threatens NC primary schedule again

    The case is Dean et al v. Leake et al, No. 2:07-cv-00051-FL-AD-RC (E.D. N.C.). The court docket sheet shows this order on 17 Dec. 2007:

    The instant dispute raises questions of federal and state law in the context of electoral apportionment in the North Carolina state elections process. A three judge court presides over the dispute as mandated by 28 U.S.C. section 2284. Section 2284 allows a "single judge [to] conduct all proceedings excepts the trial," with limited exceptions that do not apply here. The court conducted this conference at the United States Courthouse, New Bern, North Carolina, on 12/17/07, with plaintiffs appearing through counsel Robert N. Hunter, Jr., and defendants appearing through counsel Tiare Smiley & Alexander Peters. The court addressed a number of matters with the parties, and engaged in preliminary dialogue with Ms. Anita S. Earls, counsel for the proposed intervener, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP").The court memorializes the determinations madeat this conference below: 1. Request for hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction was allowed and hearing set for January 25, 2008 at the United States Courthouse at New Bern, North Carolina, pending final confirmation in the form of clerks office notice, confirming New Bern as the place for hearing and setting the specific time of hearing on January 25, 2008. and hearing set for January 25, 2008 at the United States Courthouse at New Bern, North Carolina, pending final confirmation in the form of clerks office notice, confirming New Bern as the place for hearing and setting the specific time of hearing on January 25, 2008.The court ordered today that any perceived need by the parties, particularly plaintiffs, for discovery or live witnesses which reasonably can be discerned upon the making of defendants' responsive pleading, due tomorrow, shall be presented to the court in telephonic format not later than Thursday, December 20, 2007. The court indicated in view of the expedited scheduleit dispenses with requirement for any written filing raising issues in discovery or the purported need for live witness testimony at hearing, and directed that the parties confer with it by the close of business Thursday through the offices of Ms. Rudd, the case manager. The court herein allows plaintiffs an additional fifteen (15) pages for the making of a consolidated reply not to exceed a total of twenty-five (25) pages except by leave of court. The parties will present to the court by Friday January 18, 2008, a joint report The parties will present to which shall roughly follow the form prescribed by Local Civil Rule 16.1, EDNC, for the making of proposed final pretrial orders. Signed by Chief Judge Louise Wood Flanagan on 12/17/2007.

    The complaint is here.

    January 18, 2008

    Nevada: federal court refuses to shut down at-large caucus sites

    The Washington Post reports: A federal judge on Thursday refused to shut down nine casino-based sites for Saturday's caucuses, delivering a victory to Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in what has become an increasingly bitter Democratic contest here.

    U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan rejected the argument that conducting some of the caucuses in casinos would give Obama an unfair advantage because he has been endorsed by the state culinary workers union, which employs thousands of casino workers. Siding with lawyers for the Democratic National Committee, he said federal law "recognizes the parties have the right to determine how to apportion delegates."

    The DNC, working with Nevada Democratic officials, approved the at-large precincts last summer to accommodate people who will be working when the hour-long caucuses are held at noon on Saturday. Any shift worker employed within a 2.5-mile radius of the Strip is allowed to participate, but those sites are expected to be dominated by culinary workers, many of whom are Latino. State party officials estimate that casino caucusgoers could account for as much as 10 percent of the total turnout.

    The lawsuit, brought by a state teachers' union that has endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), led to a nasty dispute between her campaign and Obama's, escalating tensions just days after the two tried to defuse a racially tinged dispute. -- Judge Allows Casino Sites for Nevada Caucuses

    There is no written order yet. The plaintiffs' brief is here. The defendants' brief is here.

    January 17, 2008

    New York: Scotus says, no right to a "fair shot" at judgeship nomination

    The New York Times reports: The challenge to New York’s method for choosing candidates to run in judicial elections ended in failure at the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday when not a single justice accepted the plaintiffs’ claim that the system was unconstitutional.

    Voting 9 to 0, the court overturned a 2006 ruling by the federal appeals court in New York that declared the party convention system for choosing nominees to the state’s trial court unconstitutional. The case, brought in early 2004 by a group of voters, unsuccessful judicial candidates, and the civic group Common Cause, had shaken the state’s judicial politics.

    The appeals court had ordered the state to substitute a direct primary election for the judicial convention system, which it said deprived candidates who lacked the backing of party leaders of a realistic chance of getting on the ballot. The order was held up awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision.

    Justice Antonin Scalia’s succinct 12-page opinion for the court was dismissive of what he characterized as the lawsuit’s premise. “None of our cases establishes an individual’s constitutional right to have a ‘fair shot’ at winning the party’s nomination,” he wrote. -- Justices Uphold New York’s Judge System

    January 16, 2008

    New York: court approves plan to bring state into HAVA compliance

    AP reports: A judge who had threatened to jail elections officials Wednesday approved the state's plan for bringing New York into compliance with federal voting law by making it easier for disabled voters to cast ballots.

    New York is years behind federal deadlines under the Help America Vote Act, which was enacted after the contested 2000 presidential elections to ensure better accuracy and access for the disabled.

    If the state acts on the timeline approved by U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe, voting machines accessible to the disabled will be available in every polling place around the state by this fall's federal elections. The state would then follow up by replacing all pull-lever machines by the fall 2009 state elections.

    The state Board of Election must send a progress report to Sharpe every Friday to verify it has met each deadline. -- Judge OKs NY state voting remedies

    Nevada: more background on the caucus lawsuit

    AP reports: A last-minute federal court battle over caucus rules demonstrates just how important a tight three-way Democratic presidential contest in Nevada has become in the battle for momentum headed into Super Tuesday's votes.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are in a statistical dead heat in polling here before Saturday's caucuses. And Nevada's sizable blocs of Hispanic, union and urban voters could provide an indicator of where the race is headed on Feb. 5, when hundreds of delegates will be awarded in states with significant minority populations. ...

    At issue in a federal court hearing Thursday is whether Democratic caucuses will be held in nine casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. The special locations were designed to make it easier for housekeepers, waitresses and bellhops in the state's biggest industry to caucus at midday near their jobs rather than returning home to neighborhood precincts.

    The rules were unanimously approved by the state Democratic party last March and ratified by the Democratic National Committee in August.

    But last Friday, six Democrats and a teachers union, which has ties to the Clinton campaign, sued to shut the sites on grounds they allocate too many delegates to one group. Of roughly 10,000 delegates to Nevada's presidential nominating convention, more than 700 could be selected at casino caucuses, depending upon turnout, which could make them more valuable than some sparsely populated Nevada counties, the lawsuit said. Four plaintiffs are on the committee that approved the sites. -- Court Case Could Alter Nev. Outcome - Ap - Headlines - The Columbus Telegram - Columbus, Nebraska's Community Newspaper

    Alabama: federal court hears arguments on Governor's appointment of Jefferson County Commissioner

    The Birmingham News reports: Two people might be able to stake a claim to the Jefferson County Commission's District 1 seat after an election scheduled Feb. 5 if a three-judge panel doesn't intervene, attorneys said after a federal court hearing here Tuesday.

    But Ken Wallis, Gov. Bob Riley's legal adviser, warned that the District 1 seat might be vacant for several months if the panel does get involved.

    The comments came after attorneys gave arguments on whether the judges should void Riley's appointment of George Bowman to the commission. Riley appointed Bowman on Nov. 21 to replace Larry Langford, who left the seat to become mayor of Birmingham. But the Jefferson County Election Commission in October had scheduled a special election to fill the seat.

    Fred Plump of Fairfield filed suit saying Riley lacked the authority to appoint Bowman. He's asking the judges for a preliminary injunction that would remove Bowman from office and prohibit Riley from interfering with the Feb. 5 election, in which both men are running. -- Flap over filling Jefferson County Commission seat could result in 2 commissioners or none-

    January 14, 2008

    Nevada: judge says, let Kucinich in

    AP reports: A Nevada judge said Monday that Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich must be included in Tuesday's candidates' debate in Nevada. ...

    The judge sided with a lawyer for the Ohio congressman, who says debate host MSNBC at first invited Kucinich to take part and then told him last week he couldn't.

    A lawyer for the network said MSNBC decided to go with the top three candidates after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. -- Talking Points Memo | TPM News Headlines

    Alabama: Governor files his opening brief in Section 5 case in Supreme Court

    Gov. Bob Riley has filed his opening brief in Riley v. Kennedy, No. 07-7, in the U.S. Supreme Court. You may download the file here.

    Nevada: Obama attacks the source of his woes -- "a bunch of lawyers"

    The Caucus blog of the New York Times reports: At a rally this afternoon, Senator Barack Obama questioned the timing and legitimacy of a lawsuit that had been filed here seeking to prevent caucuses from being held Saturday in nine casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

    “Are we going to let a bunch of lawyers try to prevent us from bringing about change in America?” Mr. Obama said, speaking to members of the Culinary workers union, which has endorsed his candidacy.

    A federal judge is expected to rule this week on a lawsuit filed against the Nevada Democratic Party by the state teachers’ union, which believes that nine “at-large” caucus locations at casinos provide an unfair advantage to Mr. Obama. Why? Culinary union members and other shift-workers who are on the job Saturday will be allowed to take an hour break to caucus near their workplace in a hotel ballroom, rather than return to their home precincts. -- Obama Questions Nevada Caucus Lawsuit

    January 12, 2008

    Nevada; Nevada Teachers sue to stop at-large caucus sites inside resorts

    The New York Times reports: Nevada’s state teachers union and six Las Vegas area residents filed a lawsuit late Friday that could make it harder for many members of the state’s huge hotel workers union to vote in the hotly contested Jan. 19 Democratic caucus in Nevada.

    The 13-page lawsuit in federal district court here comes two days after the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Nevada endorsed Senator Barack Obama, a blow to Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama addressed the Culinary Union at their hall earlier Friday.

    The lawsuit argues that the Nevada Democratic Party’s decision, decided late last year, to create at-large precincts inside nine Las Vegas resorts on caucus day violates the state’s election laws and creates a system in which voters at the at-large precincts can elect more delegates than voters at other precincts. The lawsuit employs a complex mathematical formula to show that voters at the other 1,754 precincts would have less influence with their votes. -- Teachers Sue to Block Hotel Workers’ Union Vote in Nevada Caucus

    Download the complaint here.

    Update: The Washington Post has a longer article on the politics behind the suit.

    January 10, 2008

    Mississppi: Governor responds to AG's lawsuit re Senatorial election

    Alan Lange writes on Y'all Politics (and provides copies of the relevant pleadings): On January 9, Governor Barbour's legal team unleashed a load of legal documents and answers in Hinds County Circuit Court for the lawsuit that Attorney General Jim Hood has filed over the election to replace former Senator Trent Lott. Jim Hood's office has gone against the advice of both Governor Barbour and outgoing Secretary of State Eric Clark, who both believe that a November 2008 special election is the appropriate measure for replacement. Of course, Governor Barbour has appointed former Representative Roger Wicker to the post. The Democratic Party and Hood have both claimed that a special election must be held within 90 days (approximately March) to satisfy the requirements of Mississippi Code. The political ramifications are substantial as the Democratic Party and its two main candidates, former Governor Ronnie Musgrove and former US Rep. Ronnie Shows, do not relish a long and expensive fight against a sitting US Senator. Plus with the litany of charges in the trial lawyer community, stalwart donors for Democratic candidates may not answer fundraising calls from Democratic candidates. -- Yall Politics

    Hat tip to Old Southwest for the link.

    January 8, 2008

    "Voter ID Laws Are Set to Face a Crucial Test"

    The New York Times reports: In April 2006, a federal judge upheld Indiana’s law on voter identification, the strictest in the nation, saying there was no evidence that it would prevent any voter from having his ballot counted.

    But on Election Day last November, Valerie Williams became that evidence, according to lawyers in a case that will be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. After Ms. Williams grabbed her cane that day and walked into the polling station in the lobby of her retirement home to vote, as she has done in at least the last two elections, she was barred from doing so.

    The election officials at the polling place, whom she had known for years, told her she could not cast a regular ballot. They said the forms of identification she had always used — a telephone bill, a Social Security letter with her address on it and an expired Indiana driver’s license — were no longer valid under the voter ID law, which required a current state-issued photo identification card.

    “Of course I threw a fit,” said Ms. Williams, 61, who was made to cast a provisional ballot instead, which, according to voting records, was never counted. Ms. Williams — who has difficulty walking — said she was not able to get a ride to the voting office to prove her identity within 10 days as required under the law, and her ballot was discarded.

    The incident is at the heart of the highly anticipated case, which challenges the constitutionality of the Indiana law and, according to Daniel P. Tokaji, a professor of law at Ohio State University, is “the most important case involving the mechanics of election administration in decades.” -- Voter ID Laws Are Set to Face a Crucial Test

    January 2, 2008

    Mississippi: AG sues Governor over date of Senatorial election

    AP reports: The dispute over an election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Republican Trent Lott is now headed to court.

    Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood on Wednesday filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court against the Nov. 4 election date set by Gov. Haley Barbour. The two have been at odds over when the election should be held. ...

    Hood, a Democrat, said the law requires a special election much sooner than the date Barbour set.

    Mississippi law states that after receiving official notice of a Senate vacancy, the governor has 10 days to announce an election to fill the seat. That election must be held within 90 days of the announcement, unless the vacancy occurs during a year when "there shall be held a general state or congressional election." -- : Hood files lawsuit over Senate seat election

    December 27, 2007

    Alabama: profile of Fred Plump, plaintiff against Gov. Riley in election suit

    The Birmingham News has a profile of Fred Plump, the plaintiff in the suit against Gov. Riley's appointment of a county commissioner: Fred Plump looks out for the underdog.

    When a guy he knew was sure to get pummeled by friends in the neighborhood, Plump took a stand and walked him to safety.

    "I knew they were wrong," Plump said. "So, I decided to walk this guy clean out of the neighborhood, stepping out with my neck on the line. When I saw things that were not right, I was always standing up for others."

    Plump, of Fairfield, filed a federal discrimination lawsuit in the early 1970s when he sought to become a Birmingham firefighter after passing the firefighter's exam, but was passed over for a spot. -- Activist Fred Plump relishes fight with Gov. Riley over Jefferson County post-

    Disclosure: Mr. Plump is represented by Jim Blacksher and me in the suit against Riley.

    December 21, 2007

    Alabama: Woodruff files motion for reconsider in Supreme Court

    The Talladega Daily Home reports: Attorneys for Talladega County Circuit Judge Chad Woodruff, attorney Buddy Campbell and members of the Talladega County Judicial Selection Committee have filed a motion with the state Supreme Court asking that body to reconsider a 7-2 decision essentially voiding Woodruff’s election.

    In a Nov. 30 decision, a unanimous court held that a 2006 act providing for a gubernatorial appointment of Talladega’s third circuit judgeship was unconstitutional. Seven of the justices, however, held that the unconstitutional portion of the law was severable from the rest of it, meaning the position is to be filled by election in 2010.

    Woodruff was elected in 2006 and sworn in in February of this year, after a circuit court ruling that the appointment language was unconstitutional and unseverable. This ruling was appealed and partially reversed by the Supreme Court.

    Woodruff qualified for the office after the appointment bill had been passed by the Legislature but before it had been signed into law by the governor. -- Motion filed asking court to reconsider decision voiding Woodruff's election

    December 14, 2007

    Argentina: US charges $800K went from Venezuela to Argentine presidential campaign through US

    NPR reports:
    U.S. prosecutors say participants in Argentina's election broke American law. Prosecutors say the new president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, won with the help of $800,000 secretly sent from Venezuela. This comes under U.S. law because people on American soil allegedly took part in the transaction. Four people are accused. The president of the country that allegedly supplied the money, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, calls the case a "fabricated scandal." The president who allegedly received it is not so happy either. -- NPR : U.S. Criticizes Argentina's Presidential Election

    December 6, 2007

    Alabama: Election commission still planning on an election in Jefferson County

    Doc's Political Parlor reports: Sid Browning, Supervisor of Elections for Jefferson County, told the Parlor this week that the county is preparing to hold a special election on February 5th though the Governor has already appointed a replacement to fill the vacated County Commission seat. Larry Langford created the vacancy when he left the commission after winning the Birmingham mayor’s race. Governor Bob Riley has already appointed George Bowman to serve in the seat, but his authority to do that is being challenged in court by Fairfield resident Fred Plump.

    The Jefferson County Election Commission “would be remiss not to prepare for the election” given the 1977 Act that, in the Commission’s understanding, calls for an election to replace Langford, said Browning. A 2004 law authorizes the governor to fill county commission vacancies by appointment but excludes counties, such as Jefferson, with their own rules for special election. Riley’s administration claims that the 2004 law voids the 1977 law that specifies Jefferson County fills vacancies with elections.

    The Riley administration has lost a similar case in Mobile County pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Browning told the Parlor that he sees no substantive difference between the Mobile County and Jefferson County cases. -- Two Trains Going Down Two Tracks

    December 5, 2007

    Florida: Judge dismisses Nelson suit over presidential primary date

    The Palm Beach Post reports: A federal judge this afternoon rejected U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee, ending Florida Democrats' likely last hope of having the Jan. 29 presidential primary count toward selecting delegates.

    "Florida has to comply with the same rules and procedures as everybody else, and does not get to have its own way," said U.S.District Court Judge Robert Hinkle following an hour-long hearing.

    Nelson's lawyer, Kendall Coffey, said he was "disappointed" by the ruling but that doubted Nelson would appeal. ...

    DNC lawyer Joe Sandler argued that the national party has the right to enforce the schedule it has set to maintain order in its primary process. "There's only one way the party can do it, and that's to refuse to seat their delegation," Sandler said. -- Federal judge says Florida must comply with DNC rules

    South Dakota: Charles Mix Co. and Indian plaintiffs settle VRA case

    Press release from ACLU: In a historic agreement reached today with the American Civil Liberties Union, a South Dakota county has agreed to federal supervision of its elections through 2024. The settlement resolves a 2005 ACLU lawsuit charging Charles Mix County with discriminating against Native American voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

    “This is a landmark settlement,” said Bryan Sells, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project and the lead attorney on the case. “It will protect Native American voting rights in Charles Mix County for many years to come."

    Under the settlement, approved today by U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol of Sioux Falls, the county is required to get approval from the federal government before implementing new voting laws in the county through 2024. The settlement also authorizes federal election observers to monitor county elections through 2014 and requires the county to pay $110,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses.

    Today’s agreement stems from a dispute over the districts used in elections for county commissioners. In November 2001, the ACLU wrote to the county on behalf of the Yankton Sioux Tribe complaining that the county’s districts violated the one-person-one-vote principle of the Fourteenth Amendment and diluted Native American voting strength by splitting the Indian community into two districts. Although state law required the county to redraw districts in February 2002, the county commission voted to leave its then-current districts in place.

    A copy of the Consent Decree was attached to the press release: Download the file here.

    December 1, 2007

    Alabama: Supreme Court holds for electing a judge -- just not yet

    The Talladega Daily Home reports: In a 7-2 decision published Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court voided the election of Chad Woodruff to the office of Circuit Judge Place 3, overturning a circuit court ruling from February.

    Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Justice Tom Parker dissented.

    The majority of the court agreed the provision of a 2006 act filling the third judgeship by gubernatorial appointment rather than by an election was unconstitutional, but went on to find that the appointment language was severable from the rest of the act, meaning the office is to be filled by election in 2010. ...

    During the 2006 regular session of the Legislature, a bill was introduced and passed that would further delay filling the position until 2009, when the governor would make an appointment based on the recommendation of the Talladega County Judicial Selection Committee. That candidate would then stand for election the following year.

    Woodruff qualified for the office and was certified as the Democratic Party’s candidate after the 2006 act had passed both houses of the Legislature but before it had been signed into law by the governor. He ran unopposed that November and won more than 14,000 votes. -- Daily Home - State Supreme Court voids election of judge

    Alabama: 3-judge court appointed for Plump v. Riley

    The Birmingham News reports: A three-judge panel will preside over the federal lawsuit of a Fairfield man who is challenging Gov. Bob Riley's recent appointment to the Jefferson County Commission.

    The federal judges are Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller and W. Harold Albritton III, both on the bench of Montgomery's U.S. District Court, and Rosemary Barkett, a former Florida Supreme Court chief justice now a member of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, court records show. The designation of Albritton and Barkett to serve with Fuller was ordered by J.L. Edmondson, chief judge of the appeals court in Atlanta. -- Panel of judges will hear suit challenging Bob Riley's appointment of Jefferson County commissioner-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this case.

    November 29, 2007

    Alabama: suit asks for ouster of Riley's appointee

    The Birmingham News reports: A Fairfield man asked a federal court Wednesday to remove newly appointed Jefferson County Commissioner George F. Bowman from office and to block Gov. Bob. Riley, who made the appointment, from interfering with a Feb. 5 election to fill the District 1 seat.

    Fred Plump's request for a preliminary injunction is a continuation of his Nov. 16 lawsuit, which contends Riley lacks the authority to name a replacement to the seat left vacant when Larry Langford became Birmingham's mayor.

    Riley named Bowman, 59, a retired two-star general, to the commission on Nov. 21.

    Plump's suit said Riley is attempting to enforce procedures that have not been approved by the Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act. Plump's suit said the process of appointment of a commissioner by the governor prevents blacks in majority black jurisdictions from electing candidates of their choice. -- U.S. court asked to remove Jeffco commissioner appointed by Gov. Riley, let election proceed-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent Mr. Plump. The recent pleadings are available on my other website.

    November 28, 2007

    Arizona: challenge to clean election law back in federal court

    Capitol Media Services reports: Foes of public financing of elections are trying once again to void the 1998 voter-approved law, or at least parts of it.

    New legal papers filed in federal court Tuesday contend provisions of the law unconstitutionally coerce candidates to accept public money — and the restrictions that come with it — rather than finance their campaigns with private donations. That's because the Citizens Clean Election Commission provides dollar-for-dollar matches of money privately financed candidates raise, plus money spent by others on their behalf.

    That's the same argument U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll rejected two years ago from the Institute for Justice. The judge said the government is entitled to enact regulations to prevent not only corruption, but even the appearance of corruption, in the election process.

    Carroll will be the one hearing the new arguments.

    But Tim Keller, the organization's state director, said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has directed Carroll to reconsider the case, this time allowing the foes to present evidence and testimony. -- Publicly financed election campaigns are opposed anew

    November 27, 2007

    Alabama: Birmingham Mayor Langford beats challenge to his residency

    The Birmingham News reports: A judge ruled Monday that Larry Langford is a legal resident of Birmingham, rejecting a challenge to his election as Birmingham mayor.

    Circuit Judge Allwin Horn ruled against a lawsuit filed by Patrick Cooper, who ran second in the 10-person race but failed to force a runoff.

    Cooper contended that Langford never really abandoned his home in Fairfield before seeking the Birmingham office. Mayoral candidates must be older than 25, residents and registered voters.

    But Horn ruled that Langford, 59, met residency requirements by renting a downtown Birmingham loft before qualifying and registering both himself and his wife, Melva, as Birmingham voters. -- Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford is a legal resident, can remain in office, judge rules - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

    The News also has the actual decision here.

    November 21, 2007

    Alabama; Riley follows through and appoints Bowman to Jefferson County Commission

    AP reports: Republican Gov. Bob Riley appointed retired Army Gen. George F. Bowman on Wednesday to a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission — a move similar to a Mobile County appointment that ignited a court fight now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The high court on Tuesday agreed to review the Mobile County case. A ruling is not expected until next year.

    Voting rights attorney Ed Still of Birmingham said a lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery challenging Bowman's appointment on the same grounds as the Mobile County case.

    Still said the cases are "almost identical." -- Riley's Jeffco appointment brings voting rights challenge

    Update: A longer story is in the Thursday paper. -- Gov. Bob Riley appoints retired general to replace Larry Langford on Jefferson County Commission

    Another update:
    The Mobile Press-Register includes in its story: Cecil Gardner, the attorney who sued Riley over the Chastang appointment, compared the governor's decision Wednesday in Birmingham with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's actions in 2003.

    Moore ignored a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building. He was eventually removed from office.

    "Riley is taking the same path that Chief Justice Roy Moore took," Gardner said. "And Riley will find, just like Moore, that he's going to get into deep water because of this."

    Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Riley, called that comparison "totally invalid," saying the Mobile ruling had no bearing on the Jefferson County vacancy. -- Riley appointment faces challenge

    California: Sec of State sues ES&S for uncertified changes to voting machines

    The New York Times reports: The California secretary of state, Debra Bowen, filed a lawsuit yesterday against a voting machine manufacturer for the reported sale of uncertified machines to five counties in northern California.

    The suit follows an investigation that Ms. Bowen began in July after an employee of the company, Election Systems and Software Inc., mentioned to her that changes had been made to machines bought by the counties. After a similar suit against Diebold Election Systems in 2003, California required that all changes made to voting machines be reported to its secretary of state. ...

    The suit, filed in San Francisco, seeks $9.72 million from the company for the sale of 972 machines with internal hardware changes that were not reported or submitted for re-certification. It also asks for an additional $5 million for each county, Colusa, Marin, Merced, San Francisco and Solano.

    Changes to the machines, AutoMARK A200 models, are not apparent in outward appearance or function, county election officials said. -- California Sues a Voting Machine Maker Over Changes

    Disclosure: About 6 years ago, I did a little securities-related work for ES&S.

    Alabama: Supreme Court to hear Mobile County Commission case

    The Mobile Press Register reports: The highest court in the land will weigh in on Juan Chastang's appointment to and ouster from the Mobile County Commission.

    The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review a ruling by federal judges in Montgomery's U.S. District Court that Gov. Bob Riley violated the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act when he appointed Chastang, a black Republican, to represent the majority Democratic, majority-black District 1 on the commission.

    The three-judge panel removed Chastang from the seat in May. The county held a special election to fill the post in October, and Democrat Merceria Ludgood handily defeated Chastang.

    The Supreme Court will hear the appeal in March, according to a spokeswoman at the Alabama Attorney General's Office. Ludgood's term is set to end in November 2008. -- Chastang case goes to the top-

    Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the plaintiffs in this case.

    November 20, 2007

    Riley v. Kennedy to be heard by US Supreme Corut

    The Supreme Court agreed to hear Governor Riley's appeal today in the case known in the Supreme Court as Riley v. Kennedy, No. 07-77. The order from the Court is here.

    The Governor's reply brief was filed a couple of weeks ago. It is here.

    The Questions Presented by the Governor are the following:

    This Section 5 litigation involves two decisions of the Supreme Court of Alabama, Stokes v. Noonan, 534 So. 2d 237 (Ala. 1988), and Riley v. Kennedy, 928 So. 2d 1013 (Ala. 2005). Those decisions concern the manner of filling vacancies on the Mobile County Commission and are based on valid, race-neutral, generally-applicable principles of law. The three-judge district court held that both decisions required preclearance to be enforceable. The State submitted the decisions for preclearance, and the Attorney General of the United States interposed an objection. The district court then entered a remedy order vacating a gubernatorial appointment that had relied on these State court decisions to fill a vacancy that had arisen. This appeal presents the following questions:

    1. Whether the decision of a covered jurisdiction’s highest court that a precleared State law is unconstitutional and, thereby, invalid as a matter of State law is a change that affects voting that must be precleared before it can be enforced.

    2. Whether the preclearance of a trial court’s ruling that affects voting while that ruling is on appeal and subject to possible reversal establishes a baseline such that the reversal of that decision is a change that must be precleared before it may be enforced.

    Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for Rep. Yvonne Kennedy in the case.

    I have uploaded the briefs in the Riley v. Kennedy case on my law firm website:
    Complaint, answer, trial briefs,
    District court decision,
    Denial of preclearance,
    Jurisdictional Statement and Motion to Dismiss or Affirm,
    Governor's reply brief and SCOTUS order.

    November 18, 2007

    Mississippi: the prosecution of Judge Wes Teel

    Casey Ann has a long impassioned post at Cotton Mouth about the conviction of Judge Wes Teel in Mississippi. I won't even attempt to summarize it. Just read it.

    Adam Lynch has a long story about the same set of prosecutions in the Jackson Free Press.

    November 17, 2007

    Alabama: suit filed to ensure election for Jefferson County Commission seat

    The Birmingham News reports: A Fairfield man sued Gov. Bob Riley on Friday, claiming the governor does not have the authority to appoint a replacement to the Jefferson County Commission for Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford.

    The suit, filed in Montgomery's federal court on behalf of Fred Plump, said Riley is attempting to enforce election procedures that have not been approved by the Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act. The suit seeks to block Riley from filling the District 1 commission seat, a heavily Democratic district that stretches from Fairfield north to Fultondale and east to Roebuck.

    The seat became vacant Tuesday when Langford, the District 1 commissioner, took office at City Hall.

    Todd Stacy, a spokesman for the governor's office, said Friday night the office had not seen the lawsuit, but the law clearly says that the governor must appoint a replacement. -- Fairfield man files lawsuit over Gov. Bob Riley's authority to fill Jefferson County Commission seat-

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this suit.

    A copy of the complaint is here: Download file

    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 13, 2007

    Indiana: Brennan Center (et al) amicus brief filed in voter I.D. case

    The Brennan Center's headline says it all: New Study Finds African Americans, Low-Income Voters, Students and Seniors Least Likely to Have Valid Voter ID at Issue Before Supreme Court -- Press Releases

    Also, look at this page which has links to many amicus briefs.

    November 12, 2007

    Indiana: NAACP LDF files amicus brief in Crawford v. Marion Co. Election Bd.

    The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed its amicus brief in the voter I.D. case soon to be heard by the Supreme Court. Here is the Summary of the Argument:

    Although the Court of Appeals seems to trivialize the value of the right to vote, describing “the benefits of voting to the individual” as “elusive,” Crawford v. Marion County Election Bd., 472 F.3d 949, 951 (7th Cir. 2007), that characterization is plainly contrary to the Constitution and this Court’s jurisprudence. Instead, “the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civic and political rights.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 562 (1964). The Indiana statute at issue in these cases demands, therefore, not only a searching review of the burden imposed on individuals, but also consideration of the disproportionate burdens faced by voters who have enjoyed unfettered access to the vote as a result of this Court’s precedents.

    We agree with petitioners that the impact on some individuals — effective vote denial — is significant and requires Indiana’s law to be invalidated. See Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428,
    434 (1992). We urge the Court to consider the likelihood that laws like Indiana’s photo identification requirement will disfranchise some of the most vulnerable communities in our nation, whose access to the ballot is critical to the integrity of our participatory democracy.

    Millions of Americans do not possess the form of government-issued photo identification required under Indiana’s law, and that group is disproportionately poor and minority. Accordingly, the impact of laws like Indiana’s, which conditions the right to vote on the presentation of identification, will effectively fence out of the electorate significant numbers of African Americans, and will have a particularly burdensome impact in the places where impoverished African Americans are concentrated. Significantly, Indiana’s law stands as a barrier not only to voters who have previously participated under state voting standards that afforded greater access, as also to the political mobilization of eligible, but yet unregistered citizens whose right to participate is of no less constitutional import. The demographic profile of Indiana bears this out. Although Indiana’s law requiring the presentation of government-issued photo identification may not, at first glance, appear to have a pernicious impact, poor African Americans will bear the burden of the restriction more than any other group.

    Moreover, because there can be no question that areas of concentrated poverty include a disproportionately high number of citizens who lack the type of identification that would meet the demands of Indiana’s law, there is significant reason for concern that the adoption of similar photo identification requirements would have an extraordinary impact at the local level in many places. Such statutes would threaten to disfranchise significant portions of the electorate in many cities and counties.

    Taken together, the primacy of voting in our democracy, the stringency of the Indiana law, and the reality that the franchise has long provided our nation’s socio-economically disadvantaged racial minorities with the only tangible means of accessing the political process and asserting their interests, should lead this Court to employ its strictest review and invalidate the statute.

    Download the file here

    November 9, 2007

    Alabama: Former Trooper Fowler fights murder charge in Jimmy Lee Jackson case

    AP reports: An attorney for a former state trooper accused of a pivotal slaying in the civil rights movement argued in court Thursday that his client can t get a fair trial because of the death of witnesses, the loss of records and the celebration of history.

    In the first day of a two-day hearing, defense attorney George Beck presented witnesses in hopes of showing that 42 years is too long to wait to prosecute former trooper James Bonard Fowler, 74, for the 1965 shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Beck also tried to show that if there is a trial, it should be moved out of Marion, where historical markers memorialize Jackson and a highway in front of the Perry County Courthouse is named for him. ...

    Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot on Feb. 18, 1965, when a voting rights march turned violent. Fowler, who entered a not guilty plea in court Thursday, maintains he shot Jackson in self defense when Jackson hit him with a bottle and tried to grab his pistol. --

    November 7, 2007

    Alabama: Sen. Singleton says he may be a victim of voter fraud

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: A state senator from West Alabama implicated in a Hale County voter fraud case said his name may have been forged on an absentee voting document that itself may have been forged.

    In an affidavit, attorney general special agent George Barrows said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-

    Greensboro, is under investigation in connection with alleged illegal absentee voting in 2004 and 2005.

    Singleton has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and he said that he hasn’t been interviewed, put under oath, asked for a handwriting sample or even contacted by the AG’s office. ...

    Barrows said a witness told him his name was forged on an absentee voting affidavit and that “the purported signature of Bobby Singleton” appears on the affidavit as the witness.

    Singleton said that he does witness absentee ballots, but since he doesn’t know who Barrows is talking about, he could not say whether his signature is on the affidavit, whether his name had been forged, or whether the witness was mistaken. -- Senator says he may be victim of voter fraud |

    November 6, 2007

    Canada: group challenges voter I.D. law

    The Globe and Mail reports: Changes to Canada s election laws over identification could shut out hundreds of thousands of voters says a coalition that has launched a constitutional challenge in B.C. Supreme Court.

    The lawyer behind the legal petition is hoping for a quick decision. ...

    The court petition states changes to the Canada Elections Act deprive otherwise-eligible citizens of their right to vote. It claims this year s amendments mean that even if people are on the voters list they still must have government-issued photo ID with a current address usually a driver s licence.

    Mr. Quail, a lawyer with the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said that cuts out students who don't have identification with their current address, seniors who don't drive or have picture identification, the homeless, disabled and aboriginals whose status cards don't show an address.

    Before the changes, people on the voters list could arrive at the polling station with the voter card they received in the mail or apply to get one. -- Law may deny many right to vote: group

    November 2, 2007

    Florida: hearing set for 5 December in Demo primary suit

    NBC12 First Coast News reports: U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle set an expedited Dec. 5 hearing Thursday for a suit filed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings, seeking to make their national party recognize the Florida delegation at the Democratic National Convention next summer.

    The DNC stripped Florida of its 210 delegate votes because the Legislature moved the state's presidential-primary date from early March to Jan. 29 -- a week ahead of the date permitted by party rules. All major Democratic candidates for president have pledged not to campaign in states defying the national party's plan that lets only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada allocate their delegates before Feb. 5.

    Contending that the party's action violates the voting rights of millions of Floridians, Nelson and Hastings asked the federal district court in Tallahassee to make the DNC rescind its sanctions against the state. ...

    The DNC responded to the original suit on Tuesday, saying it did not act as a government entity and that parties have a right to enforce rules that were agreed to by state parties when the primary schedule was set. -- Florida - Florida Delegates May Count at the DNC

    Alabama: state senator and circuit judge accused by AG in vote fraud case

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The state attorney general filed court papers Thursday naming state Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and others as suspects in a voter fraud investigation in west Alabama.

    The court papers also accuse Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins of trying to impede the Hale County investigation to "protect members of his family," including Singleton.

    Attorney General Troy King asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to force Wiggins to step aside from one part of the voter fraud investigation because his sister, former Hale County Circuit Clerk and absentee election manager Gay Nell Tinker; his brother-in-law and former bailiff, Sen. Singleton; and his first cousin, Carrie Reaves, "are suspects in the instant investigation and are directly benefiting from the court's quashing of the search warrant and subpoenas." ...

    In August, an investigation by the attorney general's office led to former Greensboro City Council member Valada Paige Banks and Rosie Lyles of Greensboro being arrested on charges of possessing a forged absentee voter affidavit and four counts of promoting illegal absentee voting. The women have pleaded not guilty. -- :: Legislator suspect in vote fraud

    October 30, 2007

    Alabama: 11th Circuit hears Woodward case tomorrow

    The Birmingham News reports: A federal appeals court Wednesday will hear the case of former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward, who continues to maintain his prosecution on charges of illegally using a criminal database was politically motivated.

    Woodward, now retired, said Monday he has been fighting to clear his and lawyer Albert Jordan's names ever since a federal grand jury returned charges against them in 2000. ...

    A federal jury in 2006 convicted Woodward, a Republican, and Jordan in their second trial, on charges they conspired to run criminal history checks on absentee voters to use in Woodward's 1998 election contest against Democratic challenger Mike Hale. ...

    Woodward said that the indictment was politically driven to steal his sheriff's victory in the 1998 race. He said the case was arranged by high-ranking Democrats and the Justice Department, including former U.S. attorney Doug Jones, who served during the Clinton Administration. -- Ex-Jeffco sheriff sees 2000 election case going before Appeals-

    October 25, 2007

    Alabama: voter registration database completed

    AP reports: A judge ruled Wednesday that Alabama finally has a statewide computerized system for voter registration that meets federal requirements.

    U.S. District Judge Keith Wat-kins praised Gov. Bob Riley for doing in 14 months what other state officials had failed to accomplish in three years. ...

    The U.S. Justice Department sued Alabama last year after then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the Jan. 1, 2006, deadline for developing the computerized system. Watkins turned over the duties to Riley in August 2006 and set a new deadline of Aug. 31.

    Riley had to get an extension of two months, but he and his staff reported to the judge Wed-nesday that the new system began working properly on Monday.

    Justice Department attorney Don Palmer agreed. -- Judge approves state's new voter system

    October 7, 2007

    Washington State: Lies, damn lies, and politicians

    The New York Times reports: Not that they need encouragement, but politicians were given the green light to lie about their opponents by the Washington Supreme Court the other day.

    More than a dozen states have laws that make it unlawful to say false things about political candidates. The laws are, in practice, mainly aspirational. By a 5-to-4 vote on Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court added that the law in that state was also unconstitutional.

    “The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment,” Justice James M. Johnson wrote for four of the justices in the majority. A dissenting justice, Barbara A. Madsen, wrote that “the majority’s decision is an invitation to lie with impunity.”

    Justice Madsen added that the decision would help turn “political campaigns into contests of the best stratagems of lies and deceit, to the end that honest discourse and honest candidates are lost in the maelstrom.” -- Law on Lies by Politicians Is Found Unconstitutional - New York Times

    October 4, 2007

    Florida: Sen. Nelson suing DNC over presidential primary date rule

    Update: A copy of the complaint and the exhibits may be downloaded here.

    The New York Times reports: Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is to file a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing the Democratic National Committee of violating the constitutional rights of four million of the state’s voters by refusing to seat its delegates at the party’s national convention next summer.

    The suit also accuses the committee of violating the Voting Rights Act, which protects voters from racial discrimination.

    The committee decided in August to strip Florida of its delegates to the Democratic convention unless the Florida Democratic Party obeyed national party rules by delaying its 2008 presidential nominating contest. The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature had voted in May to schedule primaries for Jan. 29, even though Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina are the only states that the national parties allow to hold primaries or caucuses earlier than Feb. 5.

    Mr. Nelson will file the suit in federal court in Tallahassee along with another Florida Democrat, Representative Alcee L. Hastings, according to a draft obtained by The New York Times. The suit also names as a defendant Kurt S. Browning, Florida’s secretary of state. -- Senator Suing Own Party Over Discord on Florida

    October 2, 2007

    Washington State: Bob Bauer's analysis of Washington "top two" case

    Bob Bauer writes on Political parties are having a hard time, and as the Supreme Court meets this week, it will hear their most recent complaint. It is not the complaint most in the news, as each national party grasps for control over its own Presidential nominating schedule. The Court will hear from parties that one state, Washington State, has approved what is called a “modified blanket primary” system, the effect of which is to deprive them of their right to choose their own candidates for partisan political office. Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, 460 F.3d. 1108 (2006).

    Under the Washington arrangement, approved in 2004 by initiative, all voters of all parties participate in a primary, voting for any candidate they choose. The top vote-getters face each other. But any candidate can express her party preference, at her option, and this preference is reflected on the ballot. Hence the candidate who emerges may be associated with a party, by self-selection, but without the party’s consent, and perhaps over its active opposition. In fact, this system could produce two candidates identifying themselves as, say, Republicans, and they will face each other: but neither may be truly a Republican, and neither may have any support within their own party, or the backing or endorsement of any formal party process such as a convention.

    The Republican party, challenging this arrangement, has won both rounds in court, leading to the case now before the Supreme Court. The State of Washington believes that the Republicans have it wrong in imagining that their associational rights are infringed by the blanket primary. -- Guest Blogger: Does Washington State's "modified blanket primary" system violate the right of association?

    Washington State: "top two" primary system argued in Supreme Court

    The Washington Post reports: The Supreme Court convened its new term yesterday, and the justices immediately immersed themselves in the first of several election-law challenges the court has agreed to decide in the midst of the 2008 elections.

    Skeptical justices heard the state of Washington defend its unique voter-approved election system against a challenge that it unconstitutionally prevents political parties from choosing their own nominees.

    Washington has a "top two" primary system, in which all candidates on the ballot state a party "preference'' and all voters may choose among them. The top two advance to the general election, even if they prefer the same party. The major political parties have challenged the system, saying it violates their First Amendment association rights.

    Washington Attorney General Robert McKenna argued that the state has a right to set its own election rules, and that the party preference listed by the candidates is simply helpful information for voters, not a sign that the party endorses that candidate's views.

    But several justices were doubtful. -- State of Washington Defends Its Primaries Before Supreme Court -

    September 26, 2007

    Indiana: Supreme Court to hear voter I.D. case

    The Washington Post reports: The Supreme Court said yesterday that it will consider whether state laws requiring voters to present photo identification at polling places unfairly discriminate against the poor and minorities, injecting the justices into a fiercely partisan battle just before the 2008 elections. ...

    At a time when polarization on the court -- many of its most recent high-profile decisions have been decided 5 to 4 -- has turned it into a target for political partisans, the justices are stepping into a political battle by accepting the voter-ID case.

    Proponents of the laws, which have been passed since the contested 2000 presidential election, say the measures combat fraud. Opponents say poor people and minorities, who often do not have driver's licenses, passports or other government-issued identification, would be excluded from the polls.

    Seven states require a photo ID to vote and another 17 states require identification without photos, according to the National Association of State Legislatures. The battle has usually broken down along partisan lines, with Republicans favoring laws they said would combat voter fraud and with Democrats pushing proposals they said would encourage voter participation. -- Supreme Court to Consider Use of Voter ID -

    September 18, 2007

    New Jersey: paper trail delayed

    The Home News Tribune reports: A judge has declined to mandate new voting machines for New Jersey, agreeing that the state should instead extend a Jan. 1 deadline for installing printers on 10,000 electronic voting machines.

    Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg's decision on Monday means voters in February's presidential primary won't approve paper receipts to ensure their votes were cast properly.

    In 2005, the Legislature required electronic voting machines to be fitted with printers by January to protect against vote-tampering and help with recounts. After voting electronically, voters would view printouts to ensure their ballots were properly cast.

    But scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology found flaws with printers, and state Attorney General Anne Milgram decided to ask the Legislature to extend the deadline. The judge on Monday accepted that position but scheduled January hearings on whether the machines are constitutional. -- Judge extends deadline to bolster voting machines in N.J. | Home News Tribune Online

    Alabama: Riley gets more time for voter database

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A federal judge agreed Monday to give Gov. Bob Riley an extra two months to develop a statewide computerized voter registration system that was due Aug. 31.

    U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins said there was no reasonable alternative to allowing the governor the extra time he had requested. ...

    The U.S. Justice Department sued Alabama last year after then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the deadline for developing the system. Watkins turned over the duties to Riley with a new deadline of Aug. 31.

    On the deadline, Riley told the judge that the state needed two more months to tie together computers in state agencies that are used to verify voter data and remove the names of voters who die or are convicted of certain crimes. -- :: State gets more time on voting project

    September 17, 2007

    Florida: NAACP and Haitian group sue over "no-match, no-vote" policies

    Press release: Today voting rights advocates filed suit in a US District Court to strike down a statewide election law that could disenfranchise tens of thousands of eligible citizens from registering and voting in the 2008 elections.

    The law bars any Florida citizen from registering to vote if the state cannot match or otherwise validate the driver’s license or Social Security number on a registration form, an error-laden practice struck down in 2006 by a federal judge in Washington State. Plaintiffs bringing today’s suit, including the Florida branch of the NAACP and the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, contend that this matching law unduly delayed or denied registrations for thousands of Florida voters in 2006, and will jeopardize many more voters in 2008 if not blocked.

    Florida and a handful of other states refuse to place eligible citizens on the rolls unless they clear a series of extra bureaucratic hurdles largely dependent on “matching” registration information on a new statewide voter list with information in the state motor vehicle or Social Security systems. Common database errors, however, make “matching” unreliable, jeopardizing the status of up to 30% of new voters. A 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, one of the voting rights groups that brought today’s suit, found that such a procedure misinterpreted the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which told states to create the statewide lists.

    Mississippi: judge appoints Reuben Anderson to run Noxubee primaries

    The Commercial-Dispatch reports: Former state Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson has been given “broad authority” to be Noxubee County's superintendent of elections, but he's not publicly discussing how he's going to run Tuesday's Democratic runoffs. ...

    Lee last month banned Noxubee County Democratic Chairman Ike Brown from running party primaries and tapped Anderson to ensure whites' voting rights aren't violated.

    The judge agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice that Brown and the county Democratic Party he's led since 2000 have committed election fraud and discrimination to keep whites out of county government.

    In appointing Anderson, Lee said he's “convinced that to prevent a recurrence of past transgressions by (Democratic Party) Chairman Brown in the conduct of Democratic primary elections, the person appointed by the court must be given broad authority to act in the place and stead of Mr. Brown, rather than simply authority to observe and report.” -- Judge Lee gags Noxubee County voting overseer

    September 13, 2007

    Alabama: intervenors file for rehearing en banc in Chilton County case

    As I noted 3 weeks ago, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that the intervenors in Dillard v. Chilton County Commission had no standing to object to the consent decree entered about 20 years ago. (See this post.)

    Now the intervenors have moved for rehearing and rehearing en banc. You can read their petition here.

    Disclosure: James Blacksher and I represent the Dillard plaintiffs in this case.

    August 26, 2007

    Michigan: Feiger indicted for reimbursing employees for contributions to Edwards

    The Detroit News reports: Geoffrey Fieger, the Southfield lawyer known for winning multimillion-dollar civil judgments and antagonizing judges, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, making illegal campaign contributions and causing false statements.

    A 30-page, 10-count indictment was unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. A grand jury, which works in secret, returned it under seal on Tuesday, officials said.

    The indictment charges Fieger and a law partner, Vernon (Ven) Johnson, of conspiring to make about $127,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' 2004 campaign. Johnson, 45, of Birmingham is also charged with making illegal contributions and causing false statements. ...

    The indictment alleges Fieger illegally circumvented limits on individual campaign contributions by recruiting "straw donors" -- including employees, contractors and their family members -- to purport to make the then-maximum contributions of $2,000 each to Edwards. In fact, the more than $125,000 in donations were paid for by Fieger and Johnson and the Fieger firm, the indictment alleges. -- Fieger indicted: Illegal donations to Edwards alleged

    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

    August 22, 2007

    Alabama: Schools supt. arrested for misuse of campaign funds

    The Talladega Daily Home reports: Former St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Tom Sanders was arrested Tuesday for allegedly using campaign contributions for personal use. ...

    District Attorney Richard Minor said Sanders was indicted on two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge involving a campaign contribution.

    According to the indictment, a campaign contribution check was given to Sanders by Trussville businessman and developer Jack Harris. Minor said Tuesday Sanders was indicted on one ethics violation, involving the conversion of those contributions to personal use, a Class B felony. -- Former superintendent of St. Clair schools indicted

    Alabama: decision expected by Friday on Montgomery city election

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery officials will know by Friday whether the city elections will be held Aug. 28 or at a later date, according to attorney Edward Still, who argued on behalf of a City Council member and two mayoral candidates in a telephone conference with the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.

    District 3 council member Janet May and mayoral candidates William Boyd and Jon Dow filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last week claiming a city ordinance that moved the election from October to August was a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    The lawsuit contends the date change will confuse potential voters, including as many as 3,000 in May's district. On June 5, the City Council voted 9-0 to change the election date. ...

    The city argues its date change was pre-cleared in a June 14 letter from the U.S. Department of Justice. However, the Justice department followed that letter with another saying that new information led it to believe that the city had not carried out its burden of proof, Still said.

    "The city wants to ignore that and say the Justice department does not have the authority or that they did not say it in the right way or that the time for them to say anything has passed," he said. -- Printer-friendly article page

    August 21, 2007

    Alabama: Montgomery faces suit over election date

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A Montgomery city councilwoman and two mayoral candidates are suing the city and Mayor Bobby Bright to cancel the Aug. 28 municipal election.

    Councilwoman Janet May, who is seeking re-election, and Bright challengers Jon Dow and William Boyd have filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming a city ordinance that moved the election from October to August was a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    The lawsuit contends the date change will confuse potential voters, as many as 3,000 in May's District 3. The councilwoman did not return calls for comment. -- :: Election prompts lawsuit

    Disclosure: As noted previously, I am one of the counsel for the plaintiffs.

    The complaint is here.

    Alabama: 11th Circuit kills suit against Chilton County consent decree

    The Birmingham News reports: A federal appeals court on Monday delivered a victory to activists who integrated the Chilton County Commission, ruling on the last of more than 150 lawsuits that reshaped the way Alabamians elect local officials statewide.

    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned a lower court's decision, and left in place an election system that led to black representation on the commission. The suit was the last of the so-called "Dillard suits," which challenged the at-large voting system that civil rights activists said kept county commissions, city commissions and school boards all over the state almost exclusively white.

    James Blacksher, an attorney who represented civil rights activists in the Chilton County suit and many of the Dillard suits, said the suit was the only one remaining unresolved after 20 years of litigation. ...

    The Dillard lawsuits are credited by civil rights activists, legal scholars and historians with giving blacks their first real representation in local government in Alabama since the end of slavery. Before the suits were filed, there were only a handful of blacks in local elected office. Today, more than 17 percent of local offices are held by blacks, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. That makes Alabama one of just four states in the nation with a percentage of black elected officials in double figures. -- Chilton integration system upheld-

    Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the black plaintiffs in the Dillard cases.

    The opinion can be downloaded from the 11th Circuit website.

    August 18, 2007

    Alabama: suit filed to stop city election

    Three Montgomery voters have filed suit in federal court to stop the city of Montgomery from moving its election from October to 28 August because the change has not been precleared by the Justice Department. The suit also charges a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the invalidity of the city ordinance (for inconsistency with state law).

    Cecil Gardner, Sam Heldman (both of the The Gardner Firm), and I are the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

    I will post some of the pleadings when I get some computer problems worked out.

    July 24, 2007

    Florida: 11th Circuit holds (sort of) for plaintiffs in dilution case

    The 11th Circuit released its opinion in Thompson v. Glades County Board of Commissioners, No. 05-10669, today. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs:

    This is a vote dilution case. African American voters in Glades County, Florida, challenge the at-large method of electing members of the County Commission and School Board, claiming that it depreciates their right to vote on account of their race in violation of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Following a bench trial, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida denied relief. The Plaintiffs now appeal the court's judgment. We reverse and remand.
    The district court clearly erred in finding that District One of the Plaintiffs' illustrative plan constitutes an influence district. Thus, the court committed error in concluding that the Plaintiffs failed to establish a § 2 remedy. Furthermore, the court failed to explain with sufficient particularity that the totality of the circumstances weakens the Plaintiffs' vote dilution claim. In making those determinations, the court did not properly apply the relevant legal principles and grounded its findings in inaccurate perceptions of the law. We therefore reverse the district court's holding that the Plaintiffs' proposed remedial plan is insufficient under the first prong of the Gingles test and remand to the district court for reconsideration of the totality of the circumstances test.

    The opinion is available from the Court's website.

    July 19, 2007

    Michigan: state supreme court approves voter I.D. law

    The Grand Rapids Press reports: A law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is sparking mixed reaction from local officials.

    The Michigan Supreme Court's decision Wednesday upholds a 1996 state law, renewed in 2005, which requires voters to show photo ID to get a ballot. If voters don't have ID, they can sign an affidavit swearing to their identity and then vote.

    The law never took effect, however, because former Democratic Attorney General Frank Kelley said it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote. Republicans in the state House last year asked the Supreme Court for an opinion on the law's constitutionality. ...

    The Supreme Court vote followed party lines. -- Renewed voter ID law spurs mixed reaction -

    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.

    Alabama: candidate arrested for absentee voter fraud

    The Mobile Press Register reports: Darren Lee Flott, a one-time candidate for Alabama House District 98, and Angie Corine Green, an activities director for a nursing home, were both arrested and charged with voter fraud Thursday, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. announced.

    The pair exploited a host of nursing-home patients, Tyson alleged in a news conference held in his offices at Mobile Government Plaza.

    Those taken advantage of were elderly and infirm men and women, who, at the time the ballots were cast in their names, were either "comatose" or "otherwise unable to communicate" their voting preferences, Tyson said. ...

    The charges stem from a July 2006 Democratic runoff election, in which Flott was first announced the winner of the Prichard area House seat.

    But that was voided after the results were protested by now-sitting Rep. James Gordon. -- Former candidate faces charges of voter fraud-

    Alabama: felony counts against Worley dismissed by judge

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: A Montgomery Circuit Court judge Wednesday threw out felony charges against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, saying the statute governing the use of office to influence elections is too broad.

    The state Attorney General's Office, which brought the charges against Worley, said it would immediately appeal Judge Truman Hobbs Jr.'s decision. ...

    The Attorney General's Office based the felony charges on a statute that makes it unlawful for an official to use his or her office to influence "the vote or political action of any person."

    The letter Worley distributed included an envelope and a bumper sticker and said Worley would be "honored" if employees contributed time or money to her campaign, adding that there would not be payback if they chose not to do so.

    Worley's attorneys argued the statute was so broad that any elected official could be charged with a felony by referring to their office during a political campaign. -- Worley felony counts tossed-

    July 10, 2007

    Alabama: judge questions felony charges against Worley

    The Birmingham News reports: The circuit judge who will preside over the trial of former Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley questioned Monday whether she should face felony charges.

    Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs Jr. said the law that Attorney General Troy King's office is using to bring felony charges against Worley is vague and overbroad.

    "I'm real worried that this statute ... potentially criminalizes a lot of everyday conduct that happens all over the country," Hobbs said in a pre-trial meeting with defense attorneys and prosecutors. ...

    The felony charges stem from another part of the same section of law, which says, "No person shall attempt to use his or her official authority or position for the purpose of influencing the vote or political action of any person." A violation is punishable by a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.

    Hobbs said that under the section, a state official could face a misdemeanor charge for asking a subordinate for a $50,000 campaign contribution but face a felony charge for asking someone to put up a yard sign. -- Judge questions Worley charges-

    July 6, 2007

    Alabama: election finally called for Mobile County vacancy

    The Mobile Register reports: Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis on Thursday set an election schedule to fill the vacant District 1 commission seat, with party primaries taking place Aug. 28 and a general election no later than Nov. 20.

    The County Commission seat, which represents the northern third of Mobile County, has been empty since May, when a panel of federal judges forced out Juan Chastang after ruling that his appointment in 2005 violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    Candidates have until 5 p.m. July 17 to qualify. Any runoff would take place Oct. 9, with the general election following on Nov. 20. If no runoffs are needed, the general election will be held Oct. 9. -- Election planned for Mobile County Commission seat-

    Disclosure: I was one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the federal suit.

    July 5, 2007

    Alabama: 11th Circuit upholds restrictive ballot access law

    Ballot Access News reports: On June 29, the 11th circuit upheld Alabama’s ballot access law for new and minor parties, and for non-presidential independent candidates. That law, first put into effect in 1998, requires a petition of 3% of the last gubernatorial vote. The decision was by Judge Frank Hull, who already had a bad record on ballot access. She had previously upheld Georgia’s district petition requirement of a petition signed by 5% of the number of registered voters, even though no minor party candidate has used that petition for U.S. House in 63 years.

    The decision is Swanson v Worley, no. 06-13643. The decision does not mention that a law virtually identical to Alabama’s was declared unconstitutional law year in U.S. District Court in Arkansas. Nor does the decision mention the favorable ballot access in 2006 in Illinois and Ohio, in the 7th and 6th circuits. The decision does not mention the U.S. Supreme Court’s teaching in Storer v Brown, and in Mandel v Bradley, that ballot access laws that are seldom used are probably unconstitutional. -- 11th Circuit Upholds Alabama Ballot Access Law

    The opinion is available here.

    Thanks to Richard Winger for the tip.

    Northern Mariana Islands: court considers redistricting petition

    The Saipan Tribune: The CNMI Supreme Court yesterday heard the petition to reapportion legislative seats prior to the November 2007 midterm election and placed the matter under advisement.

    After listening to the arguments by parties involved in the petition, chief justice Miguel S. Demapan said the High Court recognizes that the issues presented are very critical to the Commonwealth, with a need to fast track the case.

    “You will be expecting our decision very soon,” said Demapan, who presided over the petition with associate justices Alexandro Castro and John A. Manglona.

    Sen. Maria Pangelinan and Tina Sablan filed the petition, asking the court to redistribute House seats based on the current number of eligible voters in the Commonwealth.

    The petitioners propose to exclude the nonresident population from the computation and thereby reduce the House membership from 18 to 14. -- Justices place redistricting petition under advisement

    July 3, 2007

    Indiana: Dems and ACLU file cert petitions on voter I.D.

    The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports: The Supreme Court will decide whether Indiana’s voter ID law is too much of a burden for some people, as the state’s Democratic Party argues, or is a prudent way to prevent voter fraud, as Republican lawmakers contend.

    The Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana will file a request Monday asking the court to review the legal fight over the law. Voter ID has operated in two primaries and a fall election since the state legislature adopted a requirement that voters must produce photo identification at polling places.

    The court will either agree to hear the case – ultimately choosing between the Indiana Democratic Party’s view and the state law – or refuse to consider it, which would be a victory for backers of the law. -- High court may review voter ID legal fight

    Note: Rick Hasen has uploaded the Indiana Democratic Party's petition. The Indiana ACLU's petition is here. (Thanks to Bill Groth for sending the IDP petition to me.)

    July 2, 2007

    Mississippi: Dem leaders claim Turnage filed motion without talking to clients

    The Jackson Clarion Ledger reports: State Democratic Party leaders said Saturday they have not heard from their attorney since a federal judge ruled lawmakers must revamp party primaries and pass a voter ID policy.

    Cleveland attorney Ellis Turnage filed a motion June 15 asking the judge to reconsider the voter ID provision without speaking with his clien, the Mississippi Democratic Party. ...

    Committee members on Saturday questioned whether they should keep Turnage, file an appeal or let the judge's decision stand. The party executive committee lacked a quorum and could not take any action.

    Some members want the voter ID provision removed from the judge's order. Others said they should start talking to legislators. -- Miss. Dems question attorney's work -The Clarion-Ledger- Real Mississippi

    June 30, 2007

    Mississippi: Noxubee Co. Dems discriminated against white voters

    Bloomberg News reports: The head of a Mississippi Democratic Party organization illegally suppressed white residents' votes, a federal judge ruled Friday in the first case filed by the Justice Department alleging that whites were subjected to voting discrimination based on their race.

    U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee ruled that Ike Brown, chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Noxubee County, violated the Voting Rights Act by issuing different procedures for collecting and counting absentee ballots from white and black voters. The executive committee, also found liable in the case, is responsible for administering Democratic primaries in the county.

    There was "ample direct and circumstantial evidence of an intent to discriminate against white voters which has manifested itself through practices designed to deny and/or dilute the voting rights of white voters in Noxubee County," Lee's ruling said.

    Brown, who is black, has been chairman of the committee since 2000. He argued at trial that the government's suit was a perversion of the voting rights law and said it was "preposterous" that the Justice Department would claim that blacks, who faced 135 years of discrimination by whites in the state, are now oppressing whites.

    The judge said he will consider a remedy at a later date. -- Whites Faced Election Bias In Mississippi, Judge Rules -

    The 104-page opinion in U.S. v. Ike Brown et al. is attached here.

    June 28, 2007

    Texas: criminal appeals court affirms dismissal of conspiracy charge against DeLay

    AP reports: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's criminal case now appears to hinge on two remaining money laundering charges after Texas' highest criminal court refused Wednesday to reinstate a dropped conspiracy charge.

    The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected arguments from Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle that it had grounds to indict DeLay and two co-defendants on a charge of conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws in 2002 state legislative elections.

    A state district judge threw out that charge after defense lawyers argued that the law DeLay is accused of violating in 2002 wasn't written until 2003.

    A regional appeals court upheld the judge's decision. Prosecutors appealed to the state's highest criminal appeals court, a Republican-controlled panel that ruled 5-4 in favor of DeLay and co-defendants John Colyandro and Jim Ellis.

    Two charges — money laundering and conspiring to launder money — remain against the former Republican congressman and the two consultants. Lawyers are arguing about those charges in an appeals court, and no trial date has been set. -- State high court refuses to reinstate DeLay conspiracy charge

    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