Law & Order: Election Administration Unit
News Roundup: 2012 has been a litigious year
In the world of elections the voters are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the elections officials, who administer elections; and the lawyers and legislators, who create and litigate the laws. These are their stories.
For those of you keeping score at home 2012 has been a particularly litigious year so far in the world of election administration. From the U.S. Department of Justice suing states to states suing the department the action this election year has been as much in the courtroom as it has been in the state house.
While voter ID lawsuits and the multiple lawsuits in Florida over the state’s voter purge seem to have stolen the spotlight of late, elections officials, civil rights groups and government attorneys are in court for a lot more.
Here is a sampling of some of the many election administration lawsuits pending or recently concluded.
National Voter Registration Act
Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group recently sued against the state of Indiana claiming that the state failed to comply with National Voter Registration Act by not maintaining clean voter lists.
The suit alleges that analysis of data from the 2010 election show that 12 counties had more people on their rolls than were actually registered to vote in the county at that time.
In Nevada, the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming that the state is in violation of NVRA by refusing to help low-income residents register to vote.
Voting for America, an affiliate of Project Vote filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas this week arguing that the state law requiring third-party volunteers wishing to register voters be appointed as a volunteer deputy registrar violates NVRA.
Secretary of State Hope Andrade and Galveston County Registrar Cheryl Johnson are named in the suit that argues that state law have blunted registration efforts.
Although there have been countless lawsuits throughout this year’s redistricting process many of them have been resolved without having to delay a primary. However, recently the Native Americans Right Fund filed suit in Alaska to stop the state’s upcoming primary arguing that the old voting maps should be used instead of newly drawn boundaries that were approved under an emergency redistricting plan.
According to the Alaska Dispatch, the lawsuit grows out of fear of many Alaska Natives of their diminished representation because the emergency plan — a first in state history — will reduce the number of districts controlled by Native voters.
Late last week a jury in Jackson, Miss. threw out the results of a city council runoff race saying the results were tainted because of illegal behavior at the polls. The week-long trial was filled with emotions and accusations of racism. Although it would have only taken nine of the 12 jurors to overturn the election, the jury ruled unanimously that the election should be thrown out.
In May, six of the seven members of the St. Croix board of elections filed suit in Virgin Islands Superior Court against a fellow member of the board as well as the V.I. Action Group. The complaint charges that the defendants “created scandal and produced and published false, misleading and offensive material about them to recall them” as members of the BOE. The defendants have said the suit holds no merit.
At press time, the city of Phoenix was preparing to sue the state of Arizona over a new law forcing cities and towns in The Grand Canyon State to hold elections on the same years as state general elections. Councilmembers for the city allege that the state is infringing on their rights of self-governance. The League of Arizona Cities and Towns is expected to join the lawsuit.
Also in Arizona, this week that state asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the state’s proof-of-citizenship law to remain in effect during the current election cycle. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the law, but the state is appealing.
In addition to being sued for failure to comply with NVRA, Nevada is also being sued over a quirky element in the state’s balloting process. The state is the only one in the country that allows voters to choose “none of the above” on their ballot. However, despite giving voters the “none of the above option,” state law prohibits elections officials from counting those votes.
A group of plaintiffs, including Republicans, Democrats, Independents and a variety former state and county officials argue that the votes should be counted because to not count the “none of the above” votes, the state is disenfranchising voters.