National Voting Rights Institute
Campaign Finance is a Voting Rights Issue
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NVRI E-Update: August 2004
Notes from Stuart Comstock-Gay, Executive Director

Dear Friend,

In this issue:

  1. Buckley Coalition Growing. Legal Strategy Being Prepared.
  2. Arizona Clean Elections Law Safe for Now!
  3. Celinda Lake tells NVRI Reception that Campaign Spending Limits are Supported by Public.
  4. Using the Internet for Voter Choice.

1.  Buckley Coalition Growing. Legal Strategy Being Prepared.

More groups are joining the coalition urging the Supreme Court to revisit the Supreme Court's Buckley decision, while NVRI lawyers and others are preparing their legal strategy. As readers of this e-news know, the Supreme Court will soon face its best chance in a generation to reconsider the controversial Buckley v. Valeo decision, which prohibited limits on campaign spending, and accordingly endorsed unlimited campaign spending. The new opportunity arises from cases involving spending limits in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the state of Vermont. NVRI represents the city of Albuquerque, and represents co-defendants in the Vermont case. The Supreme Court has accepted NVRI's request for a 30-day extension of the filing deadline, meaning NVRI's brief seeking review will be filed in late September, and supporting briefs in late October. For information, check the coalition website at


2.  Arizona Clean Elections Law Safe for Now!

The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday that the initiative challenging the state's clean elections law is unconstitutional, and should not appear on the November ballot. The Court said that because the proposed constitutional amendment included two subjects, contrary to the state constitution. Opponents of publicly financed elections have already said they will bring the issue back in the future. But for now, Arizona stays with Maine as one of two states with publicly funded -- and effective -- elections.


3.  Celinda Lake tells NVRI Reception that Campaign Spending Limits are Supported by Public.

In NVRI's July 22 Boston reception, pollster and political strategist Celinda Lake shared with the crowd recent findings about the public's attitude surrounding campaign finance reform, including their support for spending limits. Said Lake, "The most appealing proposal ... is mandatory campaign spending limits built on the powerful messages of creating a level playing field, fairness, and equity." The fundraising reception was held at the Boston lawfirm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, on the eve of the Democratic convention.

NVRI's next fundraising reception will be held on October 14 in New York City. Chuck Lewis, Executive Director of the Center for Public Integrity, will talk about the ongoing importance of campaign finance reform.

For a copy of Lake's powerpoint presentation, or for information about the October 14 event, contact Pamela Sheward at [email protected].


4.  Using the Internet for Voter Choice.

The Internet has been a powerful democratizing force in the world. Yet one of its more creative uses was squashed during the 2000 elections. On August 30, NVRI will argue that it is unconstitutional for states to shut down websites that facilitate strategic voting agreements, more commonly known as �voteswapping.� The four-year old case began during the 2000 election, when several �Nader trader� websites were launched to connect Nader supporters in swing states with Gore voters in Democratic-leaning states and urged such paired voters to consider �swapping� their votes - to reduce the likelihood that George Bush would win, while helping the Green Party receive 5% of the vote to ensure easier ballot access in future elections. (Although less common, some websites also paired Bush supporters in safe states with various third party candidates on the conservative end of the political spectrum.) The California Secretary of State threatened website operators with prosecution and the concerned website operators shut down their websites. Two website operators and two website users sued to protect their rights and now, just prior to the 2004 election, they will finally have their day in the Federal District Court in Los Angeles. NVRI views the Internet as a low-cost way of empowering each individual to maximize the value of his or her vote. Staff Attorney Lisa Danetz will argue the case with co-counsel Peter Eliasberg from the ACLU of Southern California.


As always, drop a note if you have questions or suggestions. And if you are not already a subscriber to this regular e-news publication, you can sign up by clicking here. Feel free to share this e-news widely.




Stuart Comstock-Gay
Executive Director
National Voting Rights Institute
[email protected]

National Voting Rights Institute, 27 School Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 624-3900  ¤  Fax: (617) 624-3911  ¤  ¤  [email protected]