V. Legal Updates
California: Activists supporting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders filed suit late last week to extend California’s voter registration up until primary day. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrer called the suit a “political stunt” that “cynically aims to undermine the legitimacy of our, and to further a political narrative that has zero basis in reality.” The judge has set an August 18 hearing date—more than two months after the primary election.
Hawaii: The state’s highest court heard arguments last week in a suit filed by the Green Party of Hawaii and stemming from ballot issues in 2012. The plaintiffs argue that the methods and procedures for printing and handling ballot should have been adopted in accordance with the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.
Kansas: U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson denied a request to put on hold a pending appeal of her order requiring the state to begin registering “suspended” voters. Instead, she extended her temporary stay on her ruling for an additional two weeks.
Ohio: Judge Michael H. Watson of the U.S. District Court in Columbus has ruled that the state violated the voting rights of Ohioans by eliminating the “golden week.” In 2014 that Legislature reduced the state’s early voting period from 35 to 28 days and it eliminated the one week when voters to register and vote on the same day. "Based on this evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that the reduction in overall time to vote will burden the right to vote of African Americans, who use (early in-person) voting significantly more than other voters," Watson said in a 120-page opinion.
U.S. Virgin Islands: The Democratic Party is suing the Joint Board of Elections in an effort to have the Joint Board conduct a primary. The party argues that the Joint Board is violating the law by forcing the Democrats to pay for their own primary.
Texas: The full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit heard oral arguments on Tuesday about the state’s voter ID law. Several of the 15 judges questioned by Texas did not have more fallback provisions for voters who lack the kinds of ID the state requires. The Appeals Court is under pressure from the Supreme Court to make a decision by July.
Virginia: U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson upheld Virginia’s voter ID law, which had been challenged by Democrats who alleged that the Republican-controlled legislature did so to curb the number of young and minority voters. “Mindful that the court’s mission is to judge not the wisdom of the Virginia voter ID law, but rather its constitutionality, this court cannot say that plaintiffs have met their burden of proof in showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the Virginia voter ID law ... contravenes the Voting Rights Act, the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, or the Twenty-Sixth Amendment,” Hudson wrote.
Also this week, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a challenge to a judge-drawn voting map. According to Bloomberg, the unanimous ruling Monday said the state’s Republican congressional delegation couldn’t press an appeal seeking to reinstate an earlier map drawn by the state legislature. That map helped Republicans capture eight of Virginia’s 11 U.S. congressional districts in the 2012 and 2014 elections.
In other legal news in Virginia, the state’s GOP filed suit in order to stop more than 206,000 ex-felons from having their voting rights restored under an executive order by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). The leaders of the House and Senate filed their suit with the state Supreme Court and argued that McAuliffe had exceeded his authority with the executive order.
Wisconsin: The federal trial over Wisconsin’s voter ID law entered its second week on Monday. Testimony was expected to last through Thursday.