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Election News Roundup: 4/29/09-5/7/09 (In memory of John Gideon)

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  Before we begin, I would like to tell you some very sad news:  John Gideon of, the man who faithfully published Daily Voting News, has died.  He was born in 1947 and worked hard for voting rights of all kinds.  He was the inspiration for this series and a great source for news.  I, in fact, just talked to him for the first time a few weeks ago, and it's a tragic and shocking loss.  John Gideon posted Daily Voting News at various websites, including OpEdNews.  I will now post this series there, as well, but cannot hope to fill his void.

Election reform is one of the most important issues facing our country and our world right now, even if it doesn't get the coverage of torture or abortion.  The way that we run our elections and initiative processes determines who makes policy, the type of policy made, and the tone of our political discourse.  If we ignore it or take advantage of the electoral system, we our doing ourselves and our republic a disservice.

If you have any suggestions for a new title, any news tips, or want to volunteer to help a bit with this column (especially when I go away for the summer), please say so in the comments!

Now, onto the news...

Last week's poll - The results were pretty disappointing, with only 17 people voting.  The question was which alternative voting system is your favorite, and 8 people chose Instant Runoff/Ranked Choice.  Two chose Range/Score voting.  One chose approval voting.  Two chose to keep our current system, two chose "violent revolution," and two people said, "other."

Richard Carroll, the highest ranking Green in the nation, will switch parties - Richard Carroll, the Green Party’s only state legislator in the nation, will be switching his affiliation to the Democratic party.  He is in Arkansas, where Democrats currently control 71 out of 100 seats in the state House.  As a Green, Carroll passed a bill that lengthened independent candidates’ time to petition and established a program for deaf pages in the state House, among other things.  Carroll only joined the Greens in order to get on the ballot in 2008, and today he said, "I pretty well voted Democrat anyway, and I wasn’t basically a Green member prior to running for the seat. I felt like I needed to get with my core beliefs."  The Democrats planned to run someone against Carroll in 2010 if he did not change his party affiliation.  (Although Carroll was technically the highest-ranking, he did not represent the largest number of people - that honor belongs to Gayle McLaughlin, the mayor of Richmond, California, a city of over 100,000.)  From an article I wrote at Independent Political Report.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Voting Rights Case - From Ballot Access News:

On April 29, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in NAMUDNO v Holder, 08-322. The issue is the constitutionality of section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires local and state governments in part of the nation to submit election law changes to the U.S. Justice Department, before those changes can go into effect. Here is the AP story about the oral argument. UPDATE: here is the transcript, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s webpage. Thanks to Rick Hasen for that.

Panel on the National Popular Vote plan - New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg and Yale Law professor Akhil Reed Amar (who came up with the legal ideas supporting both the National Popular Vote plan and the National Initiative for Democracy) were on a panel at Harvard discussing the National Popular Vote compact.  Harvard Law Record.

Free Congressional Redistricting Tool Ready (by Kossack dgb) - dgb brings us a useful tool that anyone with basic computer skills and an interest in Congressional redistricting can use (and it's free!).  It allows you to draw your own districts based on cities, towns, old districts, census blocks, and your own knowledge.  In the right hands, this could be a great tool to hold our state representatives accountable in 2011 and stop them from gerrymandering, one of the more harmful practices carried out in state government.  I played around with the tool a bit and made a map of Washington state, and it was very interesting.  Here's the tool, and dgb's diary.

Justice David Souter to Retire  Ballot Access News brings us this history of Justice Souter's opinions on election-related cases:

Souter has never seemed very interested in the problems of minor parties or independent candidates. Although he wrote the ballot access decision Norman v Reed in 1992, which reiterated that strict scrutiny applies (which means that restrictions on ballot access are unconstitutional unless they are needed for a compelling state interest) later that year he was part of the majority in Burdick v Takushi, which said that strict scrutiny only applies if the burden is severe. The problem with that is that whether a burden is "severe" is utterly arbitrary.

Read the full thing here.  Election Law Blog also linked to this story about Souter and the Voting Rights Act.

Washington Governor Signs Bill Letting Some Ex-Felons Register to Vote - On Tuesday, the governor signed into law a bill that expands suffrage to felons who still owe "fines or restitution payments."  However, if they fall behind on the payments their right to vote is taken away.  Ballot Access News.

Louisiana Bill to Eliminate Primaries for Small Qualified Parties and Leave Them No Method to Nominate - From Ballot Access News:

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Ross Levin a young activist who also writes for,, He first became active in politics in the 2008 presidential campaign through Mike Gravel's quixotic run for the Democratic (more...)
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