Voter Fraud On Trial

On Tuesday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, chair of the now-defunct “Voter Fraud” Commission, will go to court to defend a law that would require   that people present documentary proof of citizenship — such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport — when they register to vote. The case has national implications for voting rights as Republicans pursue laws they say are aimed at preventing voter fraud but that critics contend disenfranchise minorities and college students who tend to vote Democratic and who may not have such documentation readily available.

The trial before U.S District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kansas, centers on the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the Motor Voter Law, which allows people to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license. Robinson will decide whether Kobach has legal authority to demand such citizenship paperwork, and a key consideration will be whether Kansas has a significant problem with noncitizens registering to vote.

Kansas has about 1.8 million registered voters. Kobach has told the court he has been able to document a total of 127 noncitizens who at least tried to register to vote. Forty-three of them were successful in registering, he says, and 11 have voted since 2000. Five of those people registered at motor vehicle offices, according to Kobach.

In the first three years after the Kansas law went into effect in 2013, about one in seven voter registration applications in Kansas were blocked for lack of proof of citizenship — with nearly half of them for people under the age of 30, according to court documents. Between 2013 and 2016, more than 35,000 Kansans were unable to register to vote.


California Judges Association Hires New Executive Director


California Judges Associationpic

California Judges Association

A former judge of the Alameda County Superior Court of the state of California, Paul Seeman earned his juris doctor from the University of California, Berkeley. An active member of the judiciary in policy matters, Paul Seeman held memberships in several legal groups and organizations, including the California Judges Association.

Founded in 1929, the California Judges Association brings together the judiciary of California in common cause. The nonprofit association’s membership is made up of judges, commissioners, and former judges from the state’s Superior Courts, Courts of Appeal, and State Bar Courts, and works to ensure fair and impartial justice is served throughout the state.

The California Judges Association recently announced the hiring of a new executive director and CEO of the association. On February 1, 2018, Nicole Virga Bautista took over for former executive director Stan Bissey, who left to take a leadership position with the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Ms. Bautista has an extensive nonprofit management background, including executive leadership experience with the California Association of Mortgage Professionals. A graduate of the University of California, Davis, she plans to leverage her experience in membership, education, and government affairs to lead new initiatives for the association.

Berkeley High Baseball and Friends of the Derby Street Park & Field


Berkeley High Baseball pic

Berkeley High Baseball

A former California Superior Court Judge from 2009 to 2013, Paul Seeman concurrently served on multiple committees, task forces, and other legal organizations. He also chaired the Alameda County Collaborative Juvenile Court. Outside of the professional arena, Paul Seeman volunteered his support to Friends of the Derby Street Park and Field.

A group of concerned Berkeley citizens established Friends of the Derby Street Park and Field in 1998 to promote a plan to bring a baseball stadium to Berkeley High School. The plan, which would have closed a block of Derby Street near the school to create a multi-purpose sports field, had become mired in controversy when the farmer’s market that had been using the same block once a week decided they did not want to move to another nearby location. Berkeley High School players continued to practice and play at another city facility, San Pablo Park, until 2013 when a compromise solution kept Derby Street open but redesigned it slightly to accommodate a regulation diamond.

With the help of Friends of the Derby Street Park and Field, Berkeley High School’s first regulation baseball field opened on September, 21, 2013. Christened Tim Moellering Field after a Berkeley High School baseball coach who died of cancer in 2011, the new complex also includes a basketball court and a separate grass sports field. The Farmer’s Market, after opposing the street closure and forcing the re-design, eventually moved to another location anyway.

16,000 Donors, Half of All Donations

A study by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that more than 3.2 million Americans contributed to federal candidates in the 2016 elections, but fewer than 16,000 of them provided half the total donations. Super PACs spent $1.1 billion in the 2016 elections, nearly 17 times more than such independent political committees put into federal races in 2010, the first year they came into existence, the report found.

“The system has completely transformed,” said Robert Bauer, a Democratic election law attorney who authored the report with GOP campaign-finance lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg and Stanford Law School professor Nathaniel Persily.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision did not result in the expected wave of independent corporate political spending. In 2012, corporations spent about $75 million from their treasuries on federal elections, roughly 1 percent of the overall spending that cycle, according to the report. In 2016, just 10 companies made independent expenditures, spending “relatively minuscule amounts,” possibly because corporations prefer lobbying on public policy to taking public political stances that may anger shareholders or customers.

The more significant change is that wealthy individuals and corporate leaders have made the largest donations to super PACs, accounting for 64 percent of the contributions to such groups in recent elections.