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II. Election News This Week
- On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice put a halt to the implementation of South Carolina’s voter photo ID law saying that it discriminated against minority voters. According to The Washington Post, the department’s Civil Rights Division said the state statute is discriminatory because the state’s registered minority voters are nearly 20 percent more likely than whites to lack a state-issued photo ID. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called the decision “outrageous” and said she plans to seek “every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th Amendment rights.” Local politicians immediately took sides in the department’s ruling, mostly along party lines. What exactly this means for Texas, another pre-clearance state that passed a voter ID law in 2011, remains to be seen, although a spokesman for the state’s attorney general told the Austin-American Statesman said the attorney genera is “prepared to take all necessary legal action to defend the voter ID law enacted by the Texas Legislature.” The Justice Dept. has not indicated when it will rule on Texas’ law, but local elections officials are anxiously awaiting the ruling in order to prepare for the 2012 election cycle. And although not a pre-clearance state, opponents of Tennessee’s new voter ID law were buoyed by the Justice Dept.’s ruling last week and hope that the fed decision will help spur an overturning of Tennessee’s law.
- Late last week, a Marion County, Ind. judge ruled that Secretary of State Charlie White was ineligible to run for the state’s top elections job and that Democrat Vop Osili should be installed as secretary of state. Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled that White’s voter registration was in violation of state law. “The fact that Mr. White knowingly registered in the wrong precinct is sufficient to render him ineligible for the office of Secretary of State,” Rosenberg wrote in his ruling. Roseberg ruled White ineligible on Thursday the 22nd and on Friday the 23rd he issued a temporary stay on his ruling till December 29 giving time for White to file an appeal. Rosenberg ultimately moved the hearing to Jan. 3 because of the holiday schedule. The state’s attorney general has also said the state will appeal the ruling. The case could next go to the Indiana Court of Appeals although Indiana law does allow the state Supreme Court to take a case directly from the trial court if the case is of public importance. In an odd twist to the story, White’s father, Darrell White, is claiming that someone hacked his Facebook page and posted anti-Semitic comments about Rosenberg who is Jewish and a Democrat. The Facebook count has since been deleted.
- Absentee ballots are in the mail — no really — in Florida this week for the Jan. 31 primary, but some long-time absentee voters might be wondering if their ballots got lost amongst the post-holiday circulars. A 2010 law eliminated automatically sending absentee ballots to voters who had requested them in the previous election and elections supervisors are concerned voters are unaware of the law change. "It's dramatically decreased," Seminole County Elections Supervisor Michael Ertel told the Orlando Sentinel. "The reason is, after the 2010 election, almost everybody's absentee ballot request expired." Ertel's office has received only 2,366 requests so far from his county's heavily Republican electorate, compared with 6,663 absentee ballots cast in the 2008 GOP presidential primary. Similarly, Palm Beach County reported 4,857 requests by mid-week, compared with 9,612 in the 2008 election.
- Personnel News: By a unanimous vote, the Kentucky State Board of Elections fired longtime director Sarah Ball Johnson effective at the end of the year. Ball Johnson has served as the director for eight years and worked for the state board for 17 years. Outgoing Secretary of State Elaine Walker said the board’s attorney Maryellen Allen will serve as interim director. Ball Johnson told The Associated Press that she will miss the job, but is looking forward to new opportunities.
- In Memoriam: Former Durham, Conn. Registrar of Voters Robert “Bob” Schulte passed away this week. He was 65. Schulte served as registrar for three years stepping down only earlier this year. Shirley E. Smith of Bristol Township, Pa. died late last week. She was 73. Smith was the voting machine inspector for many elections for Bristol.