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II. Election News This Week
- In a speech this week in Texas, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that the U.S. Dept. of Justice will be aggressively reviewing new voting laws. According to The New York Times, Holder declared that protecting ballot access for all eligible voters “must be viewed not only as a legal issue, but as a moral imperative.” Besides new voter ID laws, Holder also singled out Florida’s new voter laws that limit early voting and voter registration. “Although I cannot go into detail about the ongoing review of these and other state-law changes, I can assure you that it will be thorough — and it will be fair,” he said. In addition to speaking about the new voting laws, Holder also discussed automatic voter registration.
- Law & Order: Officials in Monroe, La. were hit with a lawsuit this week over the city council elections that were moved from March to November 2012. Also in Louisiana, a state district judge ruled that West Feliciana Parish will not need to hold another election after the plaintiffs failed to present enough evident to overturn the original election. A Waukegan, Ill. couple was arrested this week and charged with perjury and mutilation of election materials. A state Superior Court judge ruled against the town of Petersburg, Alaska in its redistricting challenge. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Wisconsin this week over the state’s new voter ID law. A Republican candidate for Elk Township committee, who lost the election by just one vote, is asking a Superior Court judge to review a single ballot after it was twice rejected by the Gloucester County, N.J. board of elections.
- While some counties are no longer required to provide language assistance in American Indian language, Coconino County, Ariz. will have to provide language assistance to Yuma voters for the first time. “There has never been a request for (Yuma),” Coconino County Elections Administrator Patty Hansen told the Cronkite News. “So now we’re trying to find someone who can speak that language.” Coconino County is one of three counties in Arizona now federally required to provide assistance in Yuma, previously only Yuma County had been required to offer the assistance. The Department of Justice has since told Yavapai County that they do not need to provide the assistance and tribal leaders told Mohave officials that no assistance was necessary.
- Primary Problems: With the Iowa caucuses less than a month away, several states are still trying to figure out their primary calendar for 2012. In New York, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe this week said he would issue a ruling in about a month on a federal lawsuit against the state over the MOVE Act. Sharpe said that he did not trust the state legislature to reach an agreement on when to hold the primary since they have already had two years to do so. Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to fight the possibility of three primaries as was suggested by some legislators. And in Texas, local elections officials remain in a holding pattern not only over when the primary election may be held, but also whether there will one or two primaries. In addition to being concerned about voter confusion about the primary election(s), local administrators are also concerned about the cost should the state end up with two primaries. And in Ohio, the House approved a compromise bill that will combine the state and presidential primary into one event in March.
- Update: An Indiana judge plans to rule by Dec. 16 whether or not Secretary of State Charlie White must stand trial on voter fraud and other criminal charges. White’s attorney, Carl Brizzi, urged Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Steven Nation to consider findings by the Indiana Recount Commission.
- Personnel News: After just five months on the job, the director of the Lucas County board of elections, Ben Roberts, resigned late last week. According to the Toledo Blade, Roberts blamed an inability to change the “caustic environment” of the office as his reason for resigning. Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Thomas R. “Tommy” Hardee to serve as the new supervisor of elections for Madison County. Hardee is a volunteer firefighter and has a background in insurance. Former pastor Roy Schneider has been named the Garfield County, Okla. election board secretary. In an e-mail to supporters, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown announced that she will seek re-election in 2012. Linda Marcial, director of the Portage County, Ohio board of elections announced this week that she will retire at the end of her term in March 2012. After more than 30 years in the Marion County, Fla. elections office, Elections Supervisor Dee Brown announced that she will not seek re-election in 2012. Brown joined the elections team as a statistician in 1979 and landed the top job in 1986.