July 20, 2014

Campaign finance reports not due from local party committee candidates

AL.com reports: George Barry, a member of the executive committee for the state GOP, this week reported Huntsville GOP members of Republican Refresh to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. ...

Barry lost the recent GOP primary for the state senate held by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison.

He contends that negative campaigning by Republican Refresh contributed to that senate result, but Republican Refresh did not file as a political action committee nor file any disclosures on where their money came from and how they spent it. ...

[Brent] Beal [of Republican Refresh] said he contacted the Secretary of State. "They said you can't file even if you want to."

Emily Marsal, deputy secretary of state, confirmed late Friday that "executive committee candidates would not have to file FCPA (Fair Campaign Practices Act) forms unless they are running for something else." She said the Attorney General's office had Barry's complaint. The Attorney General's office did not comment. -- Former candidate George Barry reports fellow Republicans to Attorney General

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July 18, 2014

Non-profit StudentsFirst funds Alabama candidates, but does not report

The Decatur Daily reports: A California-based education reform group has given more than $100,000 to political candidates in Alabama this election cycle.

But because of state statute on nonprofits and campaign finance reporting, finding out where StudentsFirst gets its money isn't possible. State law said corporations, including nonprofits, don't have to file campaign finance disclosure forms, according to the secretary of state's office. ...

The organization is playing by the rules, said Adam Thompson, deputy chief of staff for the secretary of state.

“(Nonprofits) are not considered a PAC if they are making direct donations,” Thompson said. “They’re basically treated like an individual, and individuals don’t have to report who they give to or where they get the money.” -- Nonprofits can remain quiet about supporters - Decatur Daily: Elections

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July 10, 2014

Sheriffs ask for clarification re guns at polling places

Fox10 News (WALA, Mobile) reports: "Because the sheriff, by Alabama law under Title 17, is specifically responsible for the security and the safety of the polling sites," Baldwin County Sheriff Huey "Hoss" Mack said.

Under Alabama law, private polling sites like churches are able to decide for themselves if they will allow firearms while they are being used for voting. Likewise with schools, if they have a no gun policy normally, that still stands during elections.

The question for Mack and other sheriffs in Alabama is what regulatory authority they have for public buildings that are used as polling places, like event centers and city halls.

"If a sheriff or a sheriff's deputy encounters someone with a firearm in a polling site, what is the appropriate action? Can an arrest be made? What would be the specific charge? How would that be handled,?" Mack said.

As the president of the Sheriff's Association, Mack asked for clarification from Strange on behalf of all sheriffs in the state. -- Alabama sheriff?s seek answers on gun policy in polling places | Mobile, Al. News - FOX10 News

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July 9, 2014

Guns may be prohibited at most Alabama polling places

AL.com reports: Counties do not have the authority to prohibit voters from carrying firearms at all polling place, Attorney General Luther Strange said in an opinion issued Monday. ...

For instance, Strange said, in courthouses and the offices of a district attorney, guns are already banned and that ban is not lifted when the same facilities are used as a polling place.

Likewise, schools and facilities that implement certain levels of security and already prohibit firearms may continue to do so even if they become polling places on election day.

Strange said that when a piece of private property such as a church serves the public purpose of acting as a polling place, gun owners must have a concealed carry permit or the permission of the property owner to carry a weapon there. Strange said even those with a concealed carry permit can be prohibited from carrying onto private property at the discretion of the property owners.

"The owner of private premises or another authorized person may revoke the license or privilege of a person to enter or remain on private property," Strange said. "Therefore, the owner of the private property who allows his or her property to be used as a polling place may personally or by an authorized representative, prohibit firearms on the premises, even with respect to persons who have a permit." -- Ballots and bullets: Counties cannot issue blanket ban of firearms at polling places, Luther Strange says | AL.com

Note: The article contains a link to the AG's opinion.

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July 6, 2014

"Auburn resident uses math to lead political campaigns"

The Opelika-Auburn News reports: It is not uncommon for John Pudner to work 18 hours during an average day--mostly from his home in Auburn--writing up political campaign plans for politicians and analyzing data.

However, it is this environment where Pudner seems to thrive, gathering statistics and using them to positive results through Concentric Direct, a firm he founded that does strategy work for political campaigns across the country and statistics work for sports teams. ...

Pudner also said political strategy has come a long way in becoming more concerned with raw data and statistics in recent years.

“The biggest difference 20 years ago was that they wanted your intuition,” Pudner said. “People wanted to hire you to figure out ‘what do you think will make people want to vote for me.’"

In fact, Pudner remembers when people began to use more statistical analysis for political functions. In 2003, Pudner was working on a campaign to defeat the referendum vote on Alabama Amendment 1, a tax package by then Gov. Bob Riley to lessen taxes on the poor, but was argued as raising taxes on businesses and families. Leading up to the vote, Pudner and his team began using automated voice message systems to call people and collect data. The referendum was eventually defeated. -- Auburn resident uses math to lead political campaigns - OANow.com: News

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July 4, 2014

Twelfth Anniversary of Votelaw

It was 12 years ago today when I started this blog and made the first entry.

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Trouble in the GOP over chairman encouraging candidates for state committee

AL.com reports: An internecine battle is brewing in the Alabama Republican Party, which last month appointed a committee to investigate the large number of newcomers who challenged incumbents on the party's Executive Committee.

Some party members believe Chairman Bill Armistead improperly recruited candidates to run for party positions and surreptitiously accepted donations from the Alabama Education Association and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Armistead denies both allegations.

Political consultant Baron Coleman said he agreed, at Armistead's request in February, to run for a party seat from Lowndes County and to help recruit other candidates from across the state to oppose members from the "Mike Hubbard-Bob Riley wing" of the party.

"He had a list in front him -- all of the Executive Committee members," recalled Coleman, whose candidacy the party ultimately invalidated based on a residency issue. "He was trying to line up candidates to run against members who were not friendly to him." -- Questionable donations, allegations of improper candidate recruitment fuel Alabama GOP strife | AL.com

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June 29, 2014

In memory of Libby (1945-2007) and Ginny (1952-2014)

Teal ribbon

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Captive constituents

The Anniston Star reports: When Talladega City Councilman Joseph Ballow goes up for re-election, he can be sure that more than a quarter of the residents in his ward won't show up at the polls -- because they're behind bars.

One of five councilmen in this city of approximately 16,000, Ballow represents a 3,121-person ward that includes Talladega Federal Correctional Institution, a prison with 939 inmates. ...

That phenomenon has been a matter of growing concern for some prison reform advocates, who see the potential for "prison gerrymandering" -- the use of prisoners to beef up the numbers when political districts are redrawn.

"We think of one person, one vote as the rule, " said Aleks Kajstura, legal director for the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit group that advocates for a new way of districting prisons. "But when you pad out the population with inmates, you're giving people in some parts of the country more political power than others." -- Captive constituents: Prison population beefs up some Alabama districts - The Anniston Star: News

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June 28, 2014

Is this the best campaign ad of the year in Alabama?

AL.com reports:
In a state known for its less-than-high-road political commercials, an Alabama House candidate is earning high praise for his ad urging voters to "think outside the box."

Darius Foster, Republican candidate for House District 56, released his ad earlier this month. The 1 minute video shows people of all races reading bio information about Foster, who is black.

In the ad, Foster said he decided to make the video to share the facts "while challenging stereotypes."

"In a nutshell, I am not monolithic. I am many things. I can't be put in a box," he says in the ad. -- Watch what pundits are describing as the best campaign ad from an Alabama politician this year | AL.com

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Alabama open primaries: " just a happenstance of history"

The Anniston Star reports: Primary elections are a longstanding tradition in Alabama politics. Though the political arena has changed dramatically since the days of the South's one-party system, the open primary election system in Alabama has yet to evolve.

Bill Armistead, the chairman of Alabama's Republican Party, has said he would like the state to require voters to register as party members in order to vote in primary elections here. He repeated those calls this week after U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran fought off a primary challenge from Chris McDaniel in a runoff election Tuesday, reportedly with the help of Democratic voters.

Some political scientists and election reform advocates agree that the current system may not be the best available, but settling on an alternative may not be easy.

"The main reason we have the system we do cannot be expressed or articulated in rational or ideological terms," said Glen Browder, professor emeritus of American democracy and political science at Jacksonville State University. "It's just a happenstance as a result of history." -- History defines Alabama's open primaries - The Anniston Star: News

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June 27, 2014

Hubbard wants adjustments to primaries

Charles Dean writes on AL.com:
Not many hours after Cochran had won I sent a text message to Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard asking for his reaction and whether or not he now might support an effort to close the state's open primary system where anyone is free to vote in either party primary.

It didn't take Hubbard long to respond and add his voice to calls to stop or at least curtail Democrats voting in the GOP primary.:

"Given the fact that AEA-backed RINOs infiltrated our Republican primaries this election cycle and will likely continue to do so, there is obviously a need to look at the system and make needed adjustments," Hubbard said in a statement. ...

"I believe we should lay out all available options, including closing our GOP run-offs to crossover voting, and study what works best in other Republican red states like Alabama." Hubbard continued. "The next legislative session does not convene until next March, so we have plenty of time to take a measured approach and decide upon the steps necessary to protect our party nominating process." -- House Speaker Mike Hubbard willing to look at all options to end crossover voting in runoffs | AL.com

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June 26, 2014

GOP chairman still banging his closed-primary drum

AL.com reports: Democratic voters helped Sen. Thad Cochran squeak by in the Republican runoff in Mississippi on Tuesday, a fact that Alabama's Republican Party chairman says strengthens the argument for party registration in this state.

Alabama is an open primary state, so voters don't have to register with a party to vote in the primary.

Chairman Bill Armistead said Democrats could determine the outcome of a Republican runoff in Alabama, just as they apparently did in Mississippi.

"I think what happened in Mississippi last night definitely sends a strong signal to us in Alabama that until we have party registration that same kind of thing could happen here in our state," Armistead said.

Armistead said he was opposed to candidates seeking Democratic support in primaries or runoffs, although he said that's fine to do in the general election. -- Alabama GOP chairman says Mississippi Senate race strengthens argument for party registration | AL.com

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June 20, 2014

GOP chairman seeks final solution to Democrats' "meddling" in primary

AL.com reports: The head of the state's Republican Party is taking aim at the Alabama Education Association in his fight to move towards a closed primary.

In a letter sent to GOP members and posted to ALGOP.org this week, party boss Bill Armistead said he's continuing his long-time efforts to stop cross-over voting in primaries by moving towards a "closed" primary. ...

[He writes,] "Until such time that we enact legislation in Alabama to have a closed or semi-closed primary, we will continue to see Democrats "meddling" in our Republican primary. It's time to put a stop to that once and for all." -- Alabama Republicans wants 'outsiders' (that means you AEA) to quit meddling in is primaries: Today in state politics | AL.com

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June 14, 2014

It's Flag Day. What are you flying?


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June 13, 2014

GOP claims to have evidence of voter fraud

Reuters reports: Alabama Republicans, who offered a $1,000 reward for substantiated reports of voter fraud in this month's primary elections, said on Thursday they plan to forward credible evidence of wrongdoing to state prosecutors.

Republicans argue that voter fraud is a central problem in U.S. elections. Democrats say Republican complaints about voter fraud are a smokescreen for Republican efforts to put in place measures like strict voter identification laws intended to make it unduly difficult for voters who tend to vote Democratic like minorities, young people and the elderly to cast ballots. ...

The allegations collected by Alabama Republicans include a candidate improperly offering to assist voters in filling out their ballots, a woman who was wrongly told she had signed up to vote absentee and could only cast a provisional ballot in person and cases in which voters were told they could only vote for Democratic candidates, Armistead said. -- Alabama Republicans say voter fraud found after offering reward | Reuters

(And none of those would be prevented by voter ID.)

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How does Mississippi have a runoff election faster than Alabama?

Note: Alabama and Mississippi held their primaries on the same day, 3 June. Mississippi will hold its runoff on 24 June, but Alabama has to wait till 15 July. Why the difference? Short answer: UOCAVA.

The Mississippi Business Journal reports: The Secretary of State's Office has been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that current state law conflicts with federal military and overseas voting laws.

Recent changes to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) require states to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters who request them at least 45 days before an election for federal office. State law provides only 21 days between a primary election and a primary run-off election. ...

"Rather than be sued by the federal government for failing to comply with federal law, the State Board of Election Commissioners have decided to provide military voters with both their primary and primary run-off ballot when electronically transmitting overseas absentee ballots," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. "Mississippi is a leading state in allowing electronic voting for the military, and I intend to keep it that way."

Military and overseas voters will rank the candidates of their choice for the primary run-off ballot, in a so-called "ranked choice" ballot. When the primary run-off ballot is returned to the Circuit Clerk's Office with the primary election ballot, it will be placed in a separate absentee ballot envelope in the event there is a primary run-off election. -- Justice: State's military, overseas voting law conflicts with UOCAVA » Mississippi Business Journal

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June 11, 2014

Secretary of State has certified 5 independent candidates, reviewing 20 more

AL.com reports: The Alabama Secretary of State's Office has certified the independent candidacies of three Mobile-area political candidates, including a pair kicked off the primary ballot by their respective parties.

All three independent candidates are waging longshot bids to unseat entrenched incumbents. ...

The candidates are three of five who have been certified by the Secretary of State's Office. Spokeswoman Emily Marsal said state officials are reviewing 20 others statewide. -- State certifies 3 Mobile-area independent candidates -- including 2 kicked out of primaries | AL.com

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June 6, 2014

"State GOP chair seeks closed primaries"

The Decatur Daily reports: The state's GOP party chairman said he will ask the Legislature next year to close Alabama's primary elections, meaning that only people registered with the state as Republicans or Democrats could vote in them.

Bill Armistead has favored the idea for years, but after Tuesday's primaries, he said, it may have more support.

It is very clear that some of our incumbent House members were defeated by newcomers supported by the (Alabama Education Association)," Armistead said. "It is likely that Democrats came in to vote."

Armistead's proposal would keep independent voters out of primaries. -- State GOP chair seeks closed primaries - Decatur Daily: News

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June 4, 2014

Social media skullduggery

AL.com reports: Someone claiming to be incumbent County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee contacted a reporter Saturday via LinkedIn asking to "set the record straight" on a campaign issue, but the message did not come from Menefee. ..

On Saturday, an AL.com reporter received a message from the imposter that included a link to a WAFF story about an ADEM citation about a hazardous dump site. The message said: "I found this and thought you might be interested. I want to set the record straight. My cell phone number is 256-XXX-XXX. -- Stanley"

However, when the reporter called Menefee at the cell phone number provided, Menefee said he had not left a message and was advised by an attorney not to discuss the issue. ...

Heather Wilson, who worked on Menefee's campaign, said she thinks the imposter is the same person who set up a fake Facebook account in Menefee's name a year ago. The person apparently wanted reporters to call Menefee and get the dump issue in the media, she said. -- Was fake social media account used to influence Limestone County Commission chairman race? | AL.com

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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 | AL.com

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

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    "Alabama Republicans offer $1,000 for information that leads to a felony voter-fraud conviction"

    AL.com reports: The Alabama Republican Party isn't just hoping that the state's first use of photo identifications will cut down on fraud at the polls on Tuesday.

    They are going one step further and offering $1,000 for information that leads to a conviction for felony voter fraud, according to their Chairman's Corner newsletter.

    The use of photo IDs is the first test at the polls tomorrow.

    But many Republicans still suspect fraud could occur.

    In fact, the Alabama Republican Party has set up a phone number to report fraud. It's 844-AL-FRAUD (844-253-7283). -- Alabama Republicans offer $1,000 for information that leads to a felony voter-fraud conviction | AL.com

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    June 2, 2014

    Foundation for Limited Government argues for strict reading of campaign-finance law

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A group that has helped fund challengers to Republican incumbents in Tuesday's GOP primary told the Alabama attorney general's office in April that its advertisements were for educational, not electioneering purposes.

    In correspondence obtained by the Advertiser, J. Brandon Rice, an Opelika attorney representing the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, said television spots that featured both Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn -- and which sparked a formal complaint from Marsh -- were not meant to influence an election, but to encourage voters and politicians to sign a pledge circulated by the organization.

    Rice wrote that the Foundation did not have to follow laws requiring disclosure of its finances because it was not trying to influence the election.

    "Since the Foundation is not engaged in electioneering communications, it is not required to file reports of its contributions and expenditures," Rice wrote. -- Ads don't violate campaign finance law, Foundation says

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    May 31, 2014

    Sen. Sanford gets top billing when his opponent (unnamed until the second paragraph) accuses him of campaign-finance violations

    AL.com reports: State Sen. Paul Sanford's Republican primary opponent is accusing Sanford of multiple campaign finance law violations and taking money from a PAC with Democratic Party ties.

    David Blair held a Friday morning news conference in downtown Huntsville to outline his claims that Sanford wrongly used campaign donations to buy business suits and pay for lodging while in Montgomery. Blair also produced campaign finance records that he says prove Sanford raised money outside the allowable time frame and profited nearly $300 from a campaign loan.

    The alleged Fair Campaign Practices Act violations occurred during the 2010 election cycle. ...

    In a Friday morning interview, Sanford acknowledged using about $2,400 in campaign funds to pay for lodging in Montgomery during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. He said he generally stays in a FEMA trailer at an RV park. Records also show that Sanford used $735.10 from his campaign to buy suits, dress shirts and ties at JOS Bank on Jan. 3, 2012. --
    GOP rival accuses Alabama Sen. Paul Sanford of campaign finance law violations | AL.com

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    May 29, 2014

    Votes for McNeil may be cast, but won't count

    Al.com 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 | AL.com