Monthly Archives: May 2006


The FEC has issued this press release. The upshot is that the FEC is going to provide a more extensive set of reasons as to why it chose not to regulate all 527s as political committees. Watch for the lawsuit from reform groups after the FEC issues its ruling, arguing that the FEC’s explanation is inadequate and contrary to congressional intent (that is, unless Congress actually enacts 527 reform, a possibility—though I don’t think a terribly likely one at this point). UPDATE: The NY Times offers this report in which Fred Wertheimer promises to be back in court soon. See also this Washington Post report, nothing that FEC Chair Toner and Commissioner Von Spakovsky dissented. UPDATE 2: Here is Commissioner Van Spakovsky’s statement. Bob Bauer weighs in, as do Allison Hayward (and here), Brad Smith, and Fred Wertheimer.

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Editorial Debate on Whether the VRA Should Be Renewed in Its Present Form or Updated

In Monday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia State Rep. Tyrone Brooks and Charles Steele wrote Safeguards Should Not be Eliminated. A snippet: “Discrimination in voting is still persistent in Georgia and the rest of the states covered under these provisions. Since the VRA was last renewed in 1982, Georgia has received 83 objections from the Department of Justice to changes in voting procedures — many within the past five years. This is the fourth highest number in the country. In addition, the Georgia Legislature has now twice passed the infamous Georgia photo ID law, which Department of Justice lawyers and a federal judge stated was likely to discriminate against black voters.”
U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland wrote Punitive Approach No Longer Needed (also available here). A snippet: “Renewing the law as it is would keep Georgia in the penalty box for 25 more years. It doesn’t make sense to subjugate Georgia to the whims of federal bureaucrats until 2031 based on the turnout of an election featuring Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson…I’m proposing that Congress update the Voting Rights Act by reviewing states’ performance in 2004 elections. Without these changes, I feel sure the law will be thrown out by the courts because its criteria are now outdated, arbitrary and decidedly not ‘temporary.'”
Duross Fitzpatrick, a senior judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, wrote this letter to the editor (scroll down near the bottom), “Judge: Westmoreland Right on Voting Rights Act.”

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Bob Bauer Responds to My Findlaw Column on VRA Renewal

See here. It begins:

    Yesterday, Rick Hasen published an appeal for “serious discussion” in Congress, so far avoided, on changes that might improve the Voting Rights Act prospects for constitutional survival. He also released answers to questions put to him for written response by three Republican Members of the Judiciary Committee, and here, too, Hasen expresses the view that “there is much that Congress can do to increase the chances that the Supreme Court will uphold a reauthorized VRA under the Boerne [City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (l997)] standard.” Whether this discussion is possible is certainly the most open of questions. See here. Even if there were such a discussion, it is not obvious that it could be as serious–and thus as useful–as Hasen and others would hope.

Bob concludes:

    So now it behooves the John Cornyns of this world, unfriendly to the VRA, to publicly agonize over its constitutional infirmities and to inquire anxiously into possible remedies for them. Cornyn insists on “Congress’ obligation to pass [VRA] legislation that will survive Supreme Court scrutiny.” (emphasis added). Of course, in other contexts, this is not an “obligation”–that of anticipating Supreme Court judgment–that Congress has seriously articulated or bothered, even, to discharge, and for the most part, wisely so. Nor could it ever meet this test–the test of acting to “ensure” (also Cornyn’s word) successful Constitutional review. Yet Cornyn is a man now concerned with “congruence and proportionality” and unprepared to act on VRA renewal, in its proposed form, without the necessary assurances, which he knows full well cannot be provided. This is not the level of “serious discussion” that Rick Hasen is hoping for, but it is all that he or others sharing his hope should reasonably expect.

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“Why Not Dial-In Democracy, Too?”

Ethan Leib has this piece in the Washington Post. A snippet: “So if we look at how ‘American Idol’ works, we might pick up a few cues for a better way to run our real elections and inspire some passion for politics. Consider these four lessons of American Idol democracy.” This is at least the second American Idol/elections piece run by the Post. I noted the earlier one here.

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