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Conyers Aide Wins

A longtime district aide to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) won a seat on the Detroit City Council in a hotly contested runoff election last week.

JoAnn Watson, a radio talk-show host who also earned $46,000 as an aide to Conyers, will join former Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins (D-Mich.) on the nine-member council.

Watson, 52, has never held public office but has been a longtime community activist and served as head of the Detroit-area office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Although the mayor’s office holds considerable power, the Detroit City Council administers the city’s $3.3 billion budget, enacts charter-mandated laws and reacts to the mayor’s agenda. It also can draft ordinances.

Election Reform Sequel? Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) is seeking support for a bill he introduced to make additional changes to the recently revamped federal election law.

Hastings’ Voter Outreach and Turnout Expansion Act of 2003 would require states to establish same-day voter registration procedures and would prohibit state and local supervisors from requiring voters to provide a reason for voting absentee.

In an attempt to boost voter participation, the bill also would establish early voting procedures to alleviate long lines at the polls, as well as establish Election Day as a federal holiday to free up thousands of federal employees to vote and serve as poll workers.

The legislation would require private companies with 25 or more employees to allow them at least two hours of paid or unpaid leave time to vote.

The bill currently has 19 co-sponsors.

— Damon Chappie and Amy Keller

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