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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.

June 17, 2008

California: images of gay weddings will affect voters in fall referendum

The Los Angeles Times reports: Images from gay weddings, said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, could be used by opponents in a campaign designed to persuade California voters that gays and lesbians should not have the right to marry. Those getting married, she cautioned, should never lose sight of what they might be supplying to the other side. ...

The first legal same-sex marriages in California were performed Monday night, and thousands more gay couples are expected to flood into clerks' offices in the coming weeks to obtain marriage licenses. It's all happening with both sides keenly aware that in less than five months, voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman only.

With that in mind, proponents are trying hard to manage what kinds of same-sex marriage images Californians see during this year's so-called Summer of Love.

Opponents maintain that Californians' views have not changed substantially since 2000, when more than 60% of voters cast ballots against same-sex marriage. They predict that the spectacle of men marrying men and women marrying women will anger voters and spur them to support the anti-same-sex marriage amendment. -- Gay couples are emphasizing low-key weddings - Los Angeles Times

June 2, 2008

Switzerland: referendum rejects change in citizenship process

The New York Times reports: Swiss voters on Sunday defeated a measure that would have legitimized the practice of allowing secret votes by townspeople on granting citizenship to foreigners in their communities.

The vote was a blow to the powerful far-right Swiss People’s Party, known as SVP, which had initiated the measure. Over all, nearly 64 percent of voters cast “no” ballots, and the measure gained a majority in only one of the country’s 26 cantons.

The defeat shows that the Swiss people “fully back our constitutional state,” the Social-Democratic Party, known as SP, said in a statement. Legal scholars said the measure would have violated the country’s Constitution and the European Human Rights Convention because, among other things, it would have denied rejected applicants any appeals. Buoyed by the vote, the SP said it would soon introduce an initiative to automatically grant citizenship to third-generation foreigners.

The defeated measure would have overturned a Swiss Federal Court ruling in 2003 that found that secret citizenship votes by townspeople were unconstitutional. Despite that ruling, the practice has continued in some parts of the country. -- Swiss Voters Reject Secret Ballots on Citizenship - NYTimes.com

Note: a pre-election story with more background information is here.

November 2, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 17, 2007

Scotland: Tories will back a referendum, but campaign against independence

Scotland on Sunday reports: A REFERENDUM on Scottish independence could be held as early as next year after a dramatic move by Conservative leaders to support the historic poll.

The party's vice-chairman has publicly backed a referendum as soon as possible to "clear the air" over Scotland's constitutional future.

Several Tory MSPs are backing the move, claiming the poll - which is likely to reject independence three to one - would "shoot the Nationalists' fox".

Conservative supporters of the plan believe it is essential to kill off the independence issue to reassure businesses and potential investors that Scotland has a stable future, while also giving them a chance to set the "positive case" for the Union. -- Scotland on Sunday - Politics - Tories back vote on independence

June 2, 2007

California: referendum on Iraq may be on the ballot

The New York Times reports: cCalifornia is poised to become the first state to ask voters whether they favor an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

The Democratic-led State Legislature is expected to approve a bill that would place the question on the presidential primary ballot next February. The Rules Committee in the Senate approved the bill on Wednesday, and it is expected to go before both houses in the coming weeks.

A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the governor would not weigh in until a bill hit his desk. Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has expressed support in the past for setting a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq, and he has been an enthusiastic backer of democracy by ballot measure.

California has a long history of ballot measures, but this would be the first time in 25 years that an advisory question on foreign policy was placed before the voters. Win or lose, the measure would be toothless, but pollsters and political scientists said it could change the dynamics of the primary race here, in part by making it difficult for presidential candidates to avoid the subject while campaigning in the state. -- California Primary Ballot May Include Iraq Question

April 24, 2007

Ward Connerly picks 4 targets for the National Primary

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports: Several prominent critics of affirmative action announced in Denver today that they would seek to place a referendum banning racial, ethnic, and gender preferences on the ballot in Colorado in November 2008. And while the chief group leading the effort — the American Civil Rights Institute — has not yet formally announced its plans for other similar campaigns, it clearly intends to put such measures on the November 2008 ballot in Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and one other yet-to-be-determined state as part of what it is calling a “Super Tuesday for Equal Rights.”

The Colorado effort is being overseen at the local level by a new group, called the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative. Its executive director, Valery Pech Orr, was one plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1995 decision Adarand Constructors v. Pena, which dealt with the use of affirmative action in awarding government contracts. In a written statement issued today, Ms. Orr expressed optimism that the proposed ban on affirmative-action preferences would pass there, just as similar measures were overwhelmingly adopted by voters in California in 1996, Washington State in 1998, and Michigan last fall.

A group calling itself the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative plans to hold a news conference tomorrow in Kansas City, Mo. Similar organizations plan to hold news conferences in Oklahoma on Wednesday and in Arizona on Thursday. The American Civil Rights Institute also hopes to get such a measure on the ballot in either Nebraska or South Dakota, although it has not decided which one. -- The Chronicle: Daily News Blog: 4 States Are New Targets for Bans on Affirmative-Action Preferences

March 28, 2007

Pennsylvania: judge blocks referendum in Allegheny County

AP reports: Allegheny County voters will not get to decide in May whether the sheriff should be appointed rather than elected.

County Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III on Wednesday blocked the proposed referendum, saying the county has to wait five years after its last change to home-rule government to make any new changes.

The county amended its form of government in 2005 by allowing six of 10 previously elected row offices to be appointed. The county tried to bypass the five-year rule by having the decision on the sheriff's position take effect in 2010. -- PennLive.com: NewsFlash - Judge bars May vote on appointing Allegheny County sheriff

March 23, 2007

Massachusetts: Springfield trial suspended for legislative action

The Springfield Republican reports: A federal judge today suspended a voting rights trial while legislation to reform the election system in Springfield is pending in the Legislature.

U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor said he did not want to interfere with a home rule petition providing limited ward representation on the City Council and School Committee. The petition was approved by the council and mayor last year. If it clears the Legislature, the measure will be decided by voters in the November election.

"I think that process should go forward in its pure form," Ponsor said at a hearing in U.S. District Court today.

Ponsor said he will stay the trial until one week after the November election. Either side may move to lift the stay in the meantime. -- Judge suspends Springfield voting rights trial

March 14, 2007

Cherokee Nation: Congressional Black Caucus asks for federal action on exclusion of Freedmen

AP reports: Black leaders in Congress asked the federal government yesterday to weigh in on the legality of a vote by the Cherokee Nation earlier this month to revoke citizenship from descendants of former tribal slaves.

Saying they were "shocked and outraged," more than two dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus signed a letter to the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs questioning the "validity, legality, as well as the morality" of the March 3 vote. -- Black Caucus Seeks Federal Action on Cherokee Vote - washingtonpost.com

Pennsylvania: judge puts sheriff referendum on fast track

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III has until March 28 to decide whether a referendum on making the sheriff an appointed rather than an elected position will be on the ballot in May.

That leaves very little time for the attorneys challenging the legality of the referendum, and those from the county supporting it, to get their arguments before the judge. -- Judge to decide on sheriff referendum

March 9, 2007

Pennsylvania: Sheriffs' association sues to stop referendum on appointed sheriff in Allegheny County

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: The Sheriffs' Association of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed suit yesterday to try to stop a referendum that could make the Allegheny County sheriff an appointed position instead of an elected one.

The litigants say the ballot measure is illegal and that it would place too much power at the hands of the county chief executive. ...

Their suit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, seeks an injunction against the referendum that was backed by County Council and Chief Executive Dan Onorato. It proposes elimination of the sheriff as an elected officer. The referendum is on the May 15 primary ballot. ...

"First and foremost, there's a simple reason that this is wrong: Allegheny County's charter says that you cannot submit to the voters a substantial change in the form of government except once every five years,'' Mr. King said.

Because the voters had the opportunity to eliminate row offices and the charter was amended, effective May 17, 2005, it is illegal to change the form of government set forth in the charter until May 17, 2010, the plaintiffs said. -- Lawsuit defends elected sheriff

November 11, 2006

Florida: voters pass amendment to require 60% vote on new amendments

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Amending the Florida Constitution has suddenly become a lot harder.

In fact, there is only one other state where it's any tougher, one expert says.

On Tuesday, voters approved Amendment 3, which mandates that future ballot questions gain at least 60 percent support, instead of the simple majority that had been required. ...

Wilson, however, said it's important to note that a 60 percent requirement doesn't apply just to amendments that come from the citizens, but to all amendments, including ones that originate with the state Legislature. The majority of the amendments passed since 1970 have come from the Legislature. -- New 60% rule sets bar high - Orlando Sentinel : State News New 60% rule sets bar high - Orlando Sentinel : State News

Note: This amendment received only 57.8%.

October 17, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

September 17, 2006

Florida: Bob Graham opposes effort to require 60% to pass constitutional amendments

AP reports: Former Democratic Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham joined the chairman of a conservative think tank and a Republican ex-legislator Friday in forming a group opposed to a ballot proposition that would make it more difficult to amend the Florida Constitution.

Amendment 3, placed on the Nov. 7 ballot by the Legislature, would require at least 60 percent of voters casting ballots instead of a simple majority to approve any amendment to the constitution. That includes those proposed by lawmakers as well as citizen initiatives.

Graham called it one of the most important decisions voters will make this year. ...

Panama City businessman-lawyer Charlie Hilton, chairman of the James Madison Institute, former state Rep. Bill Sublette of Orlando and Graham are co-chairing the group called Trust the Voters. -- Graham Opposes Amendment | theledger.com

September 16, 2006

New Jersey: judge stops borough from English-only referendum

NorthJersey.com reports: The borough [of Bogota] cannot place a question on the November ballot asking voters if they want to recognize English as the town's official language, a judge ruled Friday.

State Superior Court Judge Estela De La Cruz upheld Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan's decision last month to reject the proposed non-binding referendum.

De La Cruz agreed with Donovan that Bogota has no power to make English its official language. Under state law, ballot questions may only address issues that a town can act upon. The judge said state statutes already govern the use of language by municipalities. -- North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

June 12, 2006

Massachusetts: outing the signers of anti-gay marriage petition

The Boston Globe reports: A controversial campaign to identify supporters of a constitutional ban of gay marriage in Massachusetts plans to launch a similar website in Florida today.

KnowThyNeighbor.org, a website that contains a searchable database of the names of Massachusetts residents who have signed a petition for a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage, has helped a church in Jacksonville, Fla., build a similar database of Floridians who have signed a ``marriage protection" ballot initiative in their state. The Florida names will be available on KnowThyNeighbor.org or through a link on the church's website, christchurchofpeace.org .

The website's creators say its purpose is twofold -- to root out signature fraud and to provide public information that gay marriage supporters can use to identify petition signers they know and engage them in ``open and meaningful dialogue." But opponents of the site say its real purpose is to intimidate.

Kris Mineau , the president of The Massachusetts Family Institute , a sponsor of the amendment banning gay marriage, said Massachusetts' latest export was meant to scare Floridians away from the petition. -- Another website to list gay-marriage foes - The Boston Globe

Hat tip to Sean Sirrine at Objective Justice.

May 25, 2006

South Dakota: drive to repeal abortion law by referendum begins

AP reports: Opponents of South Dakota's new ban on nearly all abortions began a petition drive Friday to let voters decide its fate.

The law, among the strictest in the nation, is scheduled to take effect July 1 but will automatically be placed on hold if opponents collect the 16,728 signatures necessary for a voter referendum.

A coalition of groups opposed to the law have until June 19 to collect the signatures. The secretary of state's office received initial paperwork signed by a lead opponent, Dr. Maria Bell. -- News from The Associated Press

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

April 29, 2006

Rhode Island: federal court voids parts of campaign finance law

strong>AP reports: A federal judge has ruled that parts of Rhode Island's campaign finance laws regarding ballot questions are unconstitutional.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres struck down provisions that banned corporations, including non-profit entities, from contributing money to groups advocating for or against the passage of ballot questions.

The judge also eliminated a $10,000 cap on donations from individuals or groups to organizations supporting or opposing questions on the ballot.

In his ruling, Torres said it's unconstitutional to prohibit organizations from coordinating their expenditures and activities during ballot question campaigns. -- Federal judge strikes part of state's campaign finance laws - Boston.com
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July 29, 2005

Maine: referendum to be held on gay civil rights law

AP reports: Voters will decide in November whether to repeal Maine's newly enacted gay rights law, the state's chief elections officer said Thursday after qualifying the measure for the ballot.

The declaration by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap sets into motion what will be the latest in a series of battles at the ballot box over over gay marriage around the country. ...

As passed by the Legislature earlier this year, the law would protect people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit based on their sexual orientation. Twice before, Maine voters have rejected similar legislation. -- Maine to Vote on Repealing Gay Rights Law

May 18, 2005

California: Secretary of State says revised election districts can't be ready for 2006

AP reports: Secretary of State Bruce McPherson cast more doubt on the need for a special November election, saying the new legislative and congressional districts sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can't be in place for elections next year.

"There's no way I can see that we can make 2006," McPherson, California's top elections official, told members of the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday. "Maybe 2008, but that's a question mark."

Schwarzenegger announced in January that he wanted to take the power to draw the districts away from the Legislature and have a panel of retired judges draw new lines in time for 2006 balloting.

He's threatening to call a special election in November to give voters a chance to approve an initiative that would make that change. Schwarzenegger proposals to cut state spending and lengthen the amount of time new teachers remain on probation could also be on that ballot. -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > State -- McPherson says new lines can't be in place for 2006 elections

February 28, 2005

Ohio: Dems seek referendum on campaign finance act

The Athens News reports: The Athens County Democratic Party is taking part in an effort to put a referendum on the state ballot this fall, that if passed would repeal a "campaign finance reform" law that goes into effect March 30.

County party chair Susan Gwinn, in a news release Thursday, alleged that House Bill 1 is "not campaign finance reform. It is a way for rich Republicans to give more." She pointed out that among the law's features is language allowing a child as young as 8 years old to give up to $10,000 to a political candidate -- a provision critics of the law say will allow the children of wealthy donor families to be used to funnel more personal contributions to candidates.

Gwinn said Friday that the law also has "got the unions really concerned," because of its increased restrictions on the use of payroll deductions from members to fund campaign donations. She said one AFL-CIO lobbyist she has spoken with has predicted that had this provision been in effect when Democrat Lee Fisher ran for governor, it would have cut Fisher's organized labor contributions by up to 25 percent. ...

The law quadruples the amount an individual can donate to a political candidate, from $2,500 to $10,000, and allows individuals to give $15,000 to legislative campaign funds. It doubles the amount that a political action committee (PAC) can donate, raising it from $5,000 to $10,000.

H.B. 1 also bans issue-advocacy ads paid for by corporations and unions in the 30 days before an election. -- The Athens NEWS: Twice weekly alternative

January 29, 2005

Arizona: federal court refuses to grant stay of election

The Arizona Republic reports: A federal judge on Thursday refused to grant a temporary restraining order requested by a Mesa resident intent on stopping the city from preparing for a special election on a controversial retail development.

But the defeat in U.S. District Court was not as crushing as it seemed. Attorneys for the plaintiff, David Molina, will have at least three more weeks to resubmit a case for the restraining order and will request that a three-judge panel hear the matter. ...

Last week, Molina accused the city of violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it set a date for a special election on the Riverview project without first receiving clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Since Arizona is considered a "preclearance" state under federal law, city officials should have first submitted their intention to call a special election and update other information, such as new polling locations, before they set the date for a citywide vote, Molina argued. -- Judge denies order to stop Mesa vote

January 23, 2005

Ohio: Secretary of State rejects labor group petition on campaign finance law

The Toledo Blade reports: A labor-led coalition that wants voters to scuttle Ohio's new campaign finance law ran into a temporary setback this week when Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell rejected a petition to begin the process.

Mr. Blackwell determined the group fell 57 valid signatures short of the 100 needed from registered voters just to trigger a petition drive to get the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The latter petition would require about 193,000 signatures and would have to be submitted no later than March 30, the day before the controversial law is to take effect.

Mr. Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro approved the language that would be presented to potential petition signers. But the coalition must submit another petition containing at least 100 valid signatures.

Mr. Blackwell's office employed a signature validation process it characterizes as "binding" and "overly restrictive" that one the group's attorneys, Don McTigue, helped put in place. -- toledoblade.com

July 17, 2004

Arizona petitions filed on Monday after Sunday deadline are OK

The East Valley Tribune Online reports: A Maricopa County [Arizona] Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that petitions opposing a proposed sevenstory building in Chandler were filed in a timely manner -- allowing voters to decide on whether the building belongs near a residential area.

Judge Mark Armstrong ruled that because the final day for filing the referendum petitions landed on Sunday, June 13, and state law considers Sundays as holidays, then June 14 became the deadline.

Attorney Lisa Hauser filed the lawsuit June 29 on behalf of Chandler resident Charles Shipley alleging City Clerk Marla Paddock had accepted the petitions a day after the 30-day deadline.

Hauser, who was paid by the building's developer J.F. McKinney, said she was not expecting the ruling.

"We're pretty stunned, surprised and disappointed," Hauser said. "I think the law is clearer than the judge's order lets on." -- Seven-story building on ballot in Chandler (East Valley Tribune Online)

July 14, 2004

"Clean Money" proposal in Leon County

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: People packed the [Leon County, Florida] courthouse Tuesday for a debate on whether to change the county charter to enact a host of local election changes, including reducing the amount someone can contribute to a candidate.

Members of a group called the Clean Money/Clean Elections Steering Committee urged Leon County commissioners to place the charter amendments on the November ballot so voters can decide whether the changes are needed.

However, members of the business community asked commissioners to vote against placing the measures on the ballot. One provision of the initiative would bar corporations and businesses from giving money to candidates.

After a debate lasting several hours, commissioners voted unanimously to create a panel to study the issue of election reform - an idea first suggested by Chairwoman Jane Sauls. Even if commissioners had decided to put the initiative before voters, the changes wouldn't have taken effect until the 2006 election cycle. -- Election-reform plan heard (Tallahassee Democrat)

Judge blocks annexation because district discarded 1/3 of petition signatures

San Jose Mercury News reports: A judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked one of the region's largest land preservation districts from annexing the San Mateo County [California] coast, citing concerns that officials discarded too many protest signatures from residents who want the issue placed on the November ballot.

The decision comes just before the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was to add 140,000 coastal acres to its territory. It sets up a showdown in court later this month that could ultimately put the issue on the ballot -- or scuttle the protest effort.

After a six-year campaign that included advisory votes, aggressive campaigning and legislative wooing, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum ordered a hearing July 22 to consider the disputed protest petitions.

Forcum was troubled that county officials disqualified nearly 33 percent of the 5,340 protests submitted -- a ``staggering number,'' he said -- and called for a more ``inclusive'' process that wouldn't disenfranchise voters. Several dismissed protest petitions had technical problems, such as listing post office boxes instead of home addresses. -- Annexation of coastal land put on hold (MercuryNews.com)

June 25, 2004

Grand jury probes 1999 Alabama lottery referendum

Leaders of the Alabama Democratic Party during the time of [former] Gov. Don Siegelman's failed lottery campaign attended Wednesday's session of a grand jury probing possible public corruption.

Jack Miller, former party chairman, and Giles Perkins, former executive director of the party, declined to say why they were called before the grand jury. The two, both lawyers, would say only that they were cooperating with the investigation. ...

The state Democratic Party and the foundation that was formed to promote Siegelman's lottery effort apparently swapped resources during the 1999 campaign.

The lottery foundation reported paying the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee more than $730,000 on March 10, 2000, for "get out the vote" services during the 1999 campaign, according to campaign disclosure reports. -- Grand jury calls Siegelman's party leaders (Birmingham News)

The former CEO of Kimberly-Clark Corp. appeared before a federal grand jury Thursday to discuss the company's contribution to Gov. Don Siegelman's lottery campaign. ...

James Hawkins, a Kimberly-Clark lawyer accompanying Sanders, said Sanders was asked to discuss a lottery donation.

"As we understand, Mr. Sanders was contacted to discuss a contribution to an education foundation, specifically the Alabama Education Foundation," said Carolyne Mentesana, a spokeswoman for Kimberly-Clark.

The foundation was Siegelman's lottery campaign organization. Kimberly-Clark contributed $25,000 to the foundation on Jan. 24, 2000, according to campaign finance reports, three months after the lottery was defeated. It was not included on final campaign reports the foundation filed about a week later.

The organization, after news reports from The Mobile Register, filed an amended campaign report in 2002 that showed more than $400,000 in donations in 2000 that previously had been unreported. Kimberly-Clark's was one of the newly disclosed donations. -- Lottery supporters questioned (Birmingham News)

May 11, 2004

Alabama Legislature repairs zoning referendum law

Shelby County [Alabama] is back in the zoning business, with a few modifications.

A bill approved Thursday by the Alabama Legislature and sent to the governor clears up a legal technicality that since last summer.

It also makes it easier for residents to call such an election by reducing the number of signatures required on petitions for that purpose.

Under state law, Shelby County is divided into geographical beats for zoning. The unincorporated land in each beat has no zoning classifications unless property owners in that beat submit a qualified petition to the probate judge and then vote in a public referendum to establish zoning. -- Shelby zoning votes revived by legislature (Birmingham News)

The "technicality" was Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and "last summer" refers to a suit I brought to block a referendum.

May 10, 2004

Keep Arizona Clean Elections

A pro-Clean Elections coalition called Keep Arizona Clean Elections has been established in Arizona to counter the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" committee.

Thanks to Demos for the link.

March 21, 2004

California primary and redistricting proposals

Moderate voters [in California] may soon be given more clout in deciding primary brawls, but Greens and Libertarians could find themselves shut out when November rolls around.

An initiative that seems certain to qualify for the November ballot would open now-closed primaries by allowing voters to choose any candidate regardless of party affiliation. Only the top two vote-getters in the primary would move on, raising the prospect of an all-Democrat general election in San Francisco or a Republican-only field in Orange County, under the measure, which is sponsored by an influential bipartisan team and backed by wealthy patrons. ...

Maverick lawmakers are crafting legislation that could end the Legislature's established means of self-preservation: the once-a-decade process of drawing new political boundary lines, or reapportionment.

Over the years, the Legislature's creative cartographers have drawn cradle-, fettuccine-, and fingertip-shaped districts, using party registration as the dominant consideration. The differences in party registration are narrower than 8 percent in only about a dozen of 120 legislative districts. As a result, critics say, most races are decided during the primary.

"If you win in the primary, you win in the general," said Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is carrying legislation to give an independent panel the district-drawing job. -- State initiatives push for open primaries, redistricting reform (Copley News Service)


Wilkes-Barre City Council redistricting

Several members of Wilkes-Barre City Council on Saturday responded to Tuesday's state appellate court ruling regarding the possible redistricting of the city.

The court denied a request to rehear arguments on the redistricting referendum, which, if adopted, would reduce the size of city council from seven to five members and split the city of into five voting districts, each with one council member.

The ruling reaffirmed a January decision to reinstate the referendum approved by city residents in 2001. Luzerne County Judge Joseph Augello initially negated the vote. Augello argued there was not a plain English version of the referendum posted at polling places, as required by law. -- End of the line for 2 council seats? (The Citizens Voice)

March 13, 2004

Virginia to decide when redistricting takes effect

Virginians will vote in November whether to address the constitutional confusion that led to Northern Virginia residents' choosing who would complete the term of a retiring New River Valley state senator.

The ballot question, which received final approval from the General Assembly this week, would essentially clarify when redrawn legislative districts take effect and how to fill a vacancy that occurs before the effective date.

The problem came to light after the 2001 redistricting session, when the Republican-controlled legislature moved the 39th District, which had stretched from Montgomery County to the North Carolina border, to Northern Virginia. -- Who votes on vacancy when districts change? Voters to say (Roanoke.com)

Virginia to decide when redistricting takes effect

Virginians will vote in November whether to address the constitutional confusion that led to Northern Virginia residents' choosing who would complete the term of a retiring New River Valley state senator.

The ballot question, which received final approval from the General Assembly this week, would essentially clarify when redrawn legislative districts take effect and how to fill a vacancy that occurs before the effective date.

The problem came to light after the 2001 redistricting session, when the Republican-controlled legislature moved the 39th District, which had stretched from Montgomery County to the North Carolina border, to Northern Virginia. -- Who votes on vacancy when districts change? Voters to say (Roanoke.com)

February 15, 2004

Escambia County (FL) voting on charter

The Pensacola News Journal has two articles today about the proposed charter for Escambia County. The county would change from 5 commissioners elected from single-member districts to 10 members, 7 from single-member districts and 3 at-large. While an illustrative districting plan has been drawn, the county commission does not have to draw the final plan till the charter passes.

February 11, 2004

Redoing redistricting in California

This article from the Oakland Tribune discusses 3 or 4 -- I can't tell which -- proposed initiatives to revamp redistricting in California.

February 6, 2004

Big Money vs. Clean Money

Associated Press reports:

An initiative drive to dry up funding for Arizona's system of public campaign financing is getting five-figure contributions from developers and other big names in Arizona business.

The first regular disclosure report filed by the campaign committee for the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" lists $144,900 in contributions through Dec. 31 - four-fifths of it in contributions of $5,000 or more.

The proposed initiative would ask voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to bar taxpayer money - including the traffic and criminal fine surcharges that provide most of the campaign system's financing - from being used for candidates' campaigns.

Arizona voters approved creation of the "Clean Election" campaign finance system in 1998. It provides financing to participating candidates and imposes new reporting requirements and contribution limits on candidates receiving traditional, private financing.

February 1, 2004

Florida should have an independent redistricting commission, columnist says

Martin Dyckman, St. Petersburg Times columnist suggests today that voters in Florida should support the initiative petition drive for an independent redistricting commission.

The bottom line is not who gets to control the Legislature and the Congress, but who gets to decide. That someone ought to be the voter, not the politician. It's about restoring your right to cast a vote that counts.

January 27, 2004

IRV on the Berkeley ballot

The Berkeley Daily Planet has a commentary promoting the use of Instant Runoff Voting. The voters of Berkeley, Calfornia, will decide on switching to IRV from a "delayed" runoff on 2 March.

October 31, 2003

Nonpartisan redistricting for California?

The Sacramento Bee via the Marin Independent Journal reports,

Ted Costa, the anti-tax activist who launched the successful campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis, announced plans yesterday for a new ballot initiative that would change the way state and congressional districts are drawn in California.

Many political observers say districts created by the Legislature protect incumbents at extreme ends of the political spectrum. Costa said he wants to foster competition in legislative races by asking voters to give the job of redistricting instead to a three-member panel of retired judges, who would draw lines for state Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and congressional seats.

"Because of the bipartisan gerrymandering four years ago, we no longer have free elections in the state of California. Everything is predetermined in the primary," said Costa, chief executive officer of the People's Advocate.

The November 1993 edition of the California Target Book, which analyzes state and federal political campaigns, predicted 22 Assembly, nine Senate and 15 Congressional districts might yield competitive races in 1994. By contrast only seven Assembly, two Senate and one congressional contest will be competitive in 2004, one of the book's authors, Allen Hoffenblum, said.

"That is what gerrymandering does," Hoffenblum said.

September 22, 2003

Bustamante can't use "old" money to fight Prop. 54

AP reports,

A judge blocked Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante on Monday from using a campaign finance loophole to spend millions of dollars from an old campaign committee on ads featuring him opposing a ballot measure as he simultaneously campaigns for governor.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster ordered that any money left from the more than $4 million raised from Indian tribes and labor unions by Bustamante's old campaign committee be returned to donors through that account.

Bustamante had argued he accepted the money legally in an account that predated campaign finance reforms limiting donations to $21,200. He said any conflicts were resolved when he shifted the money from his campaign fund into a separate effort to defeat Proposition 54, a ballot initiative banning the state from collecting most racial and ethnic data.

Critics and his fellow candidates said the tactic was akin to money laundering. They complained that the cash was used to fight the initiative in television ads that feature Bustamante and look virtually identical to his gubernatorial recall campaign ads.

"It's wrong for Bustamante to hijack the campaign against Prop. 54 for his self-promotion," said independent candidate Arianna Huffington, who also opposes the voter initiative.

Proposition 54 is the Ward Connerly initiative to block the collection or use of racial statistics.

September 15, 2003

9th Circuit Enjoins Recall Election

The Ninth Circuit issued this 65-page opinion today enjoining the State of California from proceeding with the recall election until the punch card machines are replaced in several counties. For more information, see Rick Hasen's Election Law blog.

August 30, 2003

California recall election still faces Sec 5 case

AP report,

A three-judge federal panel heard arguments Friday in a case that could delay California's historic recall election, but said it would not make a decision until Sept. 5.

Civil rights groups are calling for the Oct. 7 election to be delayed, contending that the hurry-up timeframe is forcing counties to change their voting plans in ways that disenfranchise minority voters -- and that such changes require federal approval under the Voting Rights Act.

Under federal law, the Department of Justice must pre-clear any revisions to the voting process in Monterey and three other California counties with a history of low voter participation.

Unless federal lawyers approve Monterey County's plan to conduct the vote on short notice by consolidating some polling places, the judges could delay the election on whether to recall Gov. Gray Davis, perhaps until the March presidential primary.

Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez said the department was still weighing whether the government would sign off on Monterey County's plan and declined further elaboration. The department has already cleared Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's decision to set the election for Oct. 7.

County officials have scrambled to prepare for an election date that was set for less than 11 weeks after it was certified. Cash-strapped Monterey County, for example, plans to cut costs by reducing its usual 190 polling places to 86.

Civil rights groups sued, saying the Justice Department must first sign off on those and other changes to ensure that minorities won't be disenfranchised. Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel agreed -- and ordered Monterey and state election officials back to his courtroom under threats that the recall could get postponed.

The three judges overseeing Friday's hearing were Fogel, a President Clinton appointee, and two appointed by Republicans: U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Consuelo Callahan. Voting Rights Act claims are heard by a three-judge panel because, under that 1965 law, appeals skip the federal appellate level and go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The panel heard two cases Friday.

In one, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco seeks to have the entire election delayed on grounds that the Justice Department has not approved Monterey County's proposed changes.

In the other, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is asking the judges to move Proposition 54 to the March ballot -- its original date, before the recall qualified. MALDEF charges that, among other things, a reduction in polling places in Monterey could keep minorities from voting on the proposition, which would prohibit state and local governments from tracking the race of their employees, students and contractors.

August 4, 2003

MALDEF sues to keep Connerly initiative off the recall ballot

MALDEF has filed suit in US district court for the Northern District of California charging that the decision of the Secretary of State to put the Ward Connerly initiative on the same ballot as the gubernatorial recall violates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports:

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund contends voters in Monterey County-one of four California counties subject to federal preclearance rules-did not get their ballot pamphlets 100 days ahead of the election as required.

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, voters in the Monterey area will have 57 days to review the pamphlet.

“It’s too short a time frame to digest the proposition and what it means,” said Victor Viramontes, a staff attorney at the group’s Los Angeles headquarters.

Viramontes told the METNEWS that, in MALDEF’s view, “any deviation” in the statutory time period is a change that is subject to the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The case will have to be heard by a three-judge panel, Viramontes said, adding that MALDEF will be asking this week for an expedited hearing.

The text of the MALDEF complaint is here.

Gray Davis files suit in California Supreme Court

Findlaw has Gov. Davis'petition for a writ of mandate to the Secretary of State to delay the recall election to the March primary and to allow Davis to run as a candidate in the second part of the recall election -- the successor election. Warning, this is 91-page PDF.

KGO-TV has the text of the Attorney General's responses to the first four suits filed in the Supreme Court (Davis' is the fifth).

August 2, 2003

Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action initiative on the ballot with the Recall of Gray Davis

The New York Times has a long article, Affirmative Action Foe's Latest Effort Complicates California Recall Vote, on Proposition 54.

The new ballot measure seeks to further promote Mr. Connerly's vision of a colorblind California by prohibiting state and local governments from "using race, ethnicity, color or national origin to classify current or prospective students, contractors or employees in public education, contracting or employment operations."

Proposition 54 is on the ballot with the recall of Gray Davis. This will probably have the effect of boosting minority turnout for the election.

For some Democrats, who were worrying whether the party's liberal base would bother showing up on Oct. 7, Mr. Connerly is viewed as a godsend. The belief is that minority and liberal voters will be so offended by the racial data ballot measure, known as Proposition 54, that they will not only flock to the polls to defeat it, but bail out Mr. Davis, a Democrat, while there.

Will we see "Vote NO on both" signs?

Rick Hasen reports that a suit has been filed against holding the initiative election on the same day as the recall election.

July 14, 2003

Recall Committee's complaint

FindLaw has the complaint filed last Thursday in California state court by the Recall Gray Davis Committee against the Secretary of State and several county clerks.

July 8, 2003

Michigan Initiative to overturn Grutter

National Review Online has a speech by Ward Connerly announcing the campaign for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

And so today, I am pleased to announce that we, the people hereby assembled — including Tom Wood, coauthor of Proposition 209, Valery Pech, plaintiff in the Adarand case, as well as Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter — will begin a campaign to place on the November 2004 Ballot what will be commonly known as the "Michigan Civil Rights Act." This initiative will be patterned after the 1964 Civil Rights Act and California's Proposition 209 to prohibit discrimination and preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting.

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

July 4, 2003

Poll shows recall is close call

The Los Angeles Times has four articles on the recall effort. The first reports,

If the election were held today, 51% of voters would opt to unseat Davis, while 42% would reject the proposed recall, the poll found. Support for the recall has risen substantially since March, when a Times poll found just 39% of voters in favor of it.

Yet the poll's other findings suggest that many voters are not firmly wedded to a recall. When told that the special election sought by proponents would cost at least $25 million, enough voters reversed themselves to doom the recall.

And when voters were asked whether they would support a recall if no Democrats were on the ballot to replace Davis, enough switched sides to keep him in office. At present, the state's leading Democrats are united behind the governor, insisting that they do not intend to run to replace him.

The second analyzes the poll. The third reports, "Voting officials in California counties have received about 695,000 signatures supporting the recall of Gov. Gray Davis, according to a tally of results compiled Thursday by The Times."

The fourth reports, "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) said Thursday that he would probably run for governor on a recall ballot even if the election is delayed until next spring, and he dismissed recent questions about past arrests as irrelevant to his goal of ousting Gov. Gray Davis from office."

July 2, 2003

North Hempstead, NY

From Jeff Wice, Special Counsel to the Town of North Hempstead (NY) Board:

On Wednesday, the NY State Appellate Division denied an appeal from the Town of North Hempstead Republican Chairman, Peter Cavallaro, seeking to enjoin use of the town's new 6 single member council district plan in this year's elections. In April, voters approved a referendum switching from a 4 at-large member board to a six single member district scheme. The current Town Board plan for new districts was approved last month and was quickly challenged by the GOP questioning the authority of the Town Board to draw a new plan instead of the Nassau County Board of Elections. A trial is now scheduled for late August.

Recallers claim to have enough signatures

TheBakersfieldChannel.com is reporting that the California recall campaign is claiming to have 1.2 million signatures -- more than enough to put the recall on the ballot this fall.

And a group of Republicans has formed an organization opposing the recall, AP reports.

"It could destroy whatever shred remains of civilized political discourse in this great state," GOP consultant Scott Barnett said in announcing the formation of Republicans Against the Recall.

July 1, 2003

Demo tactics in the California recall

The San Francisco Chronicle had an interesting article yesterday, State Democrats recall lessons of Florida / Republicans' 2000 tactics serving as model for Davis' team.

When the 2000 presidential election melted down in Florida, Democrats were admittedly exhausted, caught off guard and outmaneuvered by Republicans. Now, Democrats are applying the lessons they learned 3,000 miles away to the potential recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Over the past two weeks, Davis and his supporters have become more organized and focused, and unafraid of ground-level skirmishes. They have settled on a simple message -- that the recall is a right-wing coup attempt -- and started preparing a long-range public relations assault.

(Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.)

Recall-ers may sue Sec of State

Leaders of the Recall Gray Davis Committee say they may sue the Secretary of State over a memo he sent to county officials saying "they have broad leeway on how to count and verify the signatures being turned in by recall supporters. The memo allows counties to verify names in batches, a decision that could slow down the process, which might delay a recall election until spring," according to the San Jose Mercury News. Going slow in certifying the recall petition will cause the recall election to be held at the same time as the spring Democratic presidential primary rather than this fall.

June 25, 2003

Recall effort still has a ways to go

The campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis of California is still short of its own goal of 1.2 million signatures by 2 September, according to Mercury Newsl.

Meanwhile, the AP is reporting that Rep. Darrell Issa is facing a renewal of the charges that he was involved in a car theft in 1980 (but the charges were dropped).

June 15, 2003

How the California recall works

Daniel Weintraub, a Sacramento Bee columnist, has explained the nitty gritty details of the recall in this recent
column. Thanks to Polizeros at Political State Report for the link and a pithy restatement and commentary on the Weintraub column.

June 9, 2003

The Davis Recall and the BCRA

The San Diego Union-Tribune has a good article, "New campaign rules bring into question Issa funding of recall," quoting Rick Hasen as a 'neutral expert."

May 29, 2003

California Recall Effort Gets Serious

Bubbling softly in the background has been a recall petition against Gov. Gray Davis of California. The drive picked up some steam (to mix my metaphors) recently when Cong. Darrell Issa started raising money (including making a $445,000 contribution) to Rescue California, the group running the recall campaign, according to the Modesto Bee. The same story tells of a group forming to oppose the recall effort.

The Los Angeles Times had a story today that an ally of Davis is complaining to the FEC that Issa broke the Federal Election Campaign Act by collecting contributions for Rescue California.

Rick Hasen (who first called the LA Times story to our attention) asked on his blog whether this was really a violation of the FECA. I think that it is. Take a look at the post I had a month ago about the comments to the request by Cong. Jeff Flake regarding his involvement with a state initiate campaign.

Remember that the BCRA (2 USC § 441i(e))prohibits a federal candidate or office holder or an organization financed by the same to solicit funds in excess of the FECA limits or from people prohibited by FECA from contributing.

May 21, 2003

New York City council term limits extension

Here is a more complete story from Newsday on the state appellate decision Monday to allow some city council members to serve 10 years instead of the "two terms" provided in a voter-approved referendum. The City Council had amended the law to allow members forced to serve a two-year term after redistricting to serve that term plus two 4-year terms.

March 29, 2003

Recalling the Gov. of California

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Secretary of State has approved the form of the petitions to recall Gov. Gray Davis. The proponents have 160 days to get 1 million signatures.

March 25, 2003

Supreme Court: case on damages for referendum process

In CUYAHOGA FALLS v. BUCKEYE COMMUNITY HOPE FOUNDATION, decided today, the Supreme Court has held that a City cannot be sued for calling a referendum on an ordinance in accordance with the facially neutral petition provisions of the City Charter. The case involved a referendum on an ordinance allowing a low-income housing project to be built; enough citizens had petitioned for a referendum on the ordinance that the City had to call one under its charter.