VI. Legal Updates
Federal Litigation: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction against Alabama, Georgia and Kansas from requesting proof-of-citizenship from voters when registering using the federal voter registration form. The ruling orders the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to remove "from the state-specific instructions those requirements directing voter registration applicants to submit proof of their U.S. citizenship." Forms submitted since the requirement was introduced in January "should be treated as if they did not contain the now-stricken state-specific instructions," it says.
Arizona: The Democratic National Committee has settled part of a lawsuit it filed in U.S. District Court in April following the state’s presidential primary. The suit argued that voters were disenfranchised because Maricopa County dramatically reduced the number of poll sites available. As part of the settlement, Maricopa County election officials agreed to consider the Democrats' recommendations on polling place queuing and the use of electronic management systems.
Georgia: The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed suit against the state arguing that Georgia’s voter registration process violates the Voting Rights Act and has prevented thousands of eligible voters from becoming registered. The suit alleges that Georgia’s strict match rule incorrectly eliminates thousands of potential voters.
Michigan: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow Michigan to enforce a ban on straight-ticket voting. According to The Washington Post, the justices declined to get involved, but gave no reason for turning down the state’s request that it be allowed to enforce the ban. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have granted the state’s request but also did not reveal their reasoning.
Also in Michigan, voter Joel Crookston filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ballot selfie law. Under Michigan’s current law, penalties for taking a ballot selfie can include a $500 fine and having the ballot in question disqualified.
Missouri: With absentee voting already underway, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the St. Louis Board of Elections improperly accepted absentee ballots in a House race and that the special election may proceed.
Montana: This week the Montana Supreme Court ruled that Roger Roots, a Libertarian candidate for secretary of state may remain on the November ballot.
New Hampshire: On Tuesday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments about the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s ban on the ballot selfie. Social media site Snapchat is one of the groups pushing for the end of the ban.
New Jersey: A trial in the city of Paterson got underway this week in the city’s 2nd Ward city council race. This is the second time in two elections cycles a race for this seat went to court.
New Mexico: The New Mexico Supreme Court heared arguments this week regarding whether constitutional changes that received majority support from voters, but did not reach the 75 percent threshold are actually in effect. The League of Women Voters, which brought the lawsuit, argues that the state Constitution makes it clear that changes to the Constitution that deal with voting and education require the proposition to meet the 75 percent threshold. “If we’re not restricting people’s voting rights, it seems to me a majority of the people ought to be able to expand the rights and modernize the language,” state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, a lawyer and former state elections director who is representing the League told the Albuquerque Journal. The court ruled 5-0 to allow the amendments to go into effect that means a law banning “idiots” and “insane persons” from voting has been replaces. The ruling also ensures a convicted felons’ right to vote after they have completed their sentence.
Ohio: In a one-sentence order, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay a decision issued by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the 2013 law eliminating Ohio’s so-called Golden Week.
Rhode Island: Robert Kando, former executive director of the Rhode Island board of elections, has sued the board, accusing it of firing him without providing adequate notice or an opportunity to be heard. The suit accuses the board of violating the Open Meetings Act and trampling on his right to due process.
West Virginia: The West Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that Erik Wells cannot appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Kanawha County clerk.
Wisconsin: Western District Court Judge James Peterson has ordered the state to report to the court on its public education efforts on voter ID by September 22.