NVRI: National Voting Rights Institute

NVRI E-News: June 9, 2005


In this issue:

CT Public Financing Bill Fails
In spite of support form the Governor and majorities in both the Senate and House, the Connecticut legislature failed on Wednesday to reach agreement on a single public financing measure. Instead the two chambers, each having passed its own financing law, could not agree and pass a common bill. And so the bill dies for now. Advocates, including Public Campaign, Common Cause, and many others, have worked for months on this measure. NVRI has also supported this work. While there was more support than ever for a public financing measure in the state, consensus could not be reached. Governor Jodi Rell said to the Hartford Courant: "Compromise and consensus was really that close - within our reach. But pettiness and bruised egos replaced responsible stewardship."

Advocates and supporters of the measure are now considering next steps, including whether or not the legislature will call a special session to pass a measure. The Hartford Courant offers this report on the failure.

Former MA Speaker Indicated
In a case arising from an important voting rights lawsuit in Boston, former Massachusetts House speaker Thomas Finneran was indicted by a Massachusetts grand jury this week on charges of lying under oath about his role in redrawing state legislative districts. The charges come from a Voting Rights Act lawsuit brought by a number of Massachusetts organizations and voters in 2002. Finneran’s district, the 12th Suffolk, was one of the districts targeted by the lawsuit. In the redistricting plan, predominantly minority precincts in Boston were removed from Finneran’s district, and replaced by predominantly white precincts in Milton.

During the trial in 2003, Finneran - an extremely powerful Speaker of the House at the time - told the three-judge panel he had no role in making changes to his own legislative district and had not reviewed the plan before it was released to the general public. The court said it found his testimony hard to believe. The indictment charges Finneran with three counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.

“The Voting Rights Act is one of the most important - if not the most important - civil rights measures this country has ever enacted,” said NVRI Managing Attorney Brenda Wright. “If an elected official commits perjury to obstruct an investigation under the Voting Rights Act, he should be held accountable.” To see Wright’s comments on NECN television, click here.

NVRI represented Latino voters in litigation that was consolidated with the Boston redistricting case. Read about the litigation here. While the case for a majority Hispanic district was not successful, the court did find that the redistricting plan in Boston - including Finneran’s district, the 12th Suffolk - violated the voting rights of African Americans.

Bonifaz to Speak About Right to Vote at Rainbow/PUSH Conference
NVRI General Counsel John Bonifaz will speak on Sunday, June 12, 2005 in Chicago at the Rainbow/PUSH annual conference. Bonifaz will speak about the proposed Constitutional Amendment for the Right to Vote, on a panel including Lani Guinier, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Alex Keyssar of Harvard University. For information, click here.

Supreme Court Filings
NVRI and our many supporters will file documents in the Supreme Court next week, seeking review of the Vermont spending limits case, and a reconsideration of the Court's Buckley v. Valeo decision. If you aren't already up to date on this case, check our special web section here. We will make our briefs available as soon as possible.

Best wishes, thanks for all your support.
Stu

Stuart Comstock-Gay
Executive Director
National Voting Rights Institute
617-624-3900 ext.16
scg@nvri.org
www.nvri.org