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electionlineWeekly — December 18, 2014

Table of Contents

 III. Legal Update

Alabama: The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that third-party political candidates must submit tens of thousands of voter signatures before gaining access to a statewide ballot. The court said that plaintiffs failed to show how the requirement is overly burdensome.

Arkansas: On Tuesday, a complaint was filed with the Mississippi County Circuit Court alleging that there were many “potential unpardoned, convicted felons, who are prohibited from voting” who cast ballots in the recent Blytheville mayoral election.

California: The Salinas city attorney is filing a writ of mandate asking a judge to stop a special election in March. "A writ of mandate is a request of the superior court asking them to order the registrar of voters of Monterey County to not put the special tax initiative on the ballot in March of 2015," city attorney Chris Callihan told KION.

Colorado: A group of Adams County voters, lead by activist Marilyn Marks filed a lawsuit against county elections officials and Secretary of State Scott Gessler after it was disclosed that due to an error by the county’s vendor Runbeck Election Systems, printed and mailed ballots about 200,000 ballots that could be directly traced back to individual voters. A unique number was printed both on the ballot and the return envelope. County Clerk Karen Long discovered the problem in October but it was not disclosed until December 9. The suit demands that the judge void the election.

Mississippi: The Hinds County commission voted this week to pay a lawyer to defend the county election commission in a lawsuit filed over the number of ballots required by state law. Some members of the commission suggested that Election Commission Chairwoman Connie Cochran should be required to pay for the defense herself.

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the state on behalf of three voters who posted ballot selfies on social media. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that New Hampshire’s law prohibiting the photographing of one’s own ballot is an infringement on the First Amendment. "The issue is the chilling effect this law has on people being able to engage in political speech outside the polling place," attorney Gilles Bissonnette told NPR. "It is now prohibited one week, six months, one year later from publishing that ballot to engage in core political speech." Dave Scanlan, deputy secretary of state, told the network it's a necessary addition to prevent a new era of high-tech vote buying. "The law was updated as a preventative measure to keep the door closed on voter fraud," he said. "People coming out against it are not considering the issues that election administrators see with trying to make sure that the elections are free from voter fraud and that they're fair."

North Carolina: The North Carolina Court of Appeals confirmed a lower court decision that Guilford County’s former board of elections director George Gilbert was underpaid. Following his 2013 retirement after 25 years on the job, Gilbert filed suit claiming he should have been paid a rate close to those in counties similar in size. The lower court agreed and awarded him $38,500. “Hopefully, counties will read this ruling and change the way they do business,” Gilbert told The News-Record. “This gives my peers a much firmer ground to stand on.” Prior to this suit, there was no case law on salary requirements for election directors.

Tennessee: The state’s Attorney General has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the validity of the November 4 Amendment 1 vote. The Amendment was approved with about 53 percent of the vote, but three days after the election opponents of the measure filed suit challenging the method elections officials used to count the ballots. In their request for dismissal, lawyers for the state argued that the arguments of the plaintiffs are contrary to legislative intent behind state election laws and contrary to long-standing practices of how ballots are counted.

U.S. Virgin Islands: The St. Croix recount saga continues this week with a superior court judge issuing a warrant for Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes after she failed to appear at a Monday hearing. Attorneys for both candidates involved in the recount subpoenaed Fawkes. When she failed to show — because apparently she was in Florida meeting with elections officials there — the judge issued a bench warrant and set bail at $5,000.