VI. Legal Updates
Federal Litigation: According to The Washington Post, a U.S. appeals court panel that barred Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement to a federal voter registration form wrote Monday that federal law leaves it to a federal elections agency — not the states — to determine whether such a change is necessary. The 2-to-1 written opinion follows a Sept. 9 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Alabama: Greater Birmingham Ministries and several disenfranchised Alabama ex-felons filed a federal lawsuit this week challenging the state’s practice of stripping a convicted felon of their voting rights. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the restriction disenfranchises more than 130,000 black citizens.
Arizona: U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes rejected an attempt by state and national Democrats to suspend Arizona’s new ballot-harvesting law that prevents individuals from turning in cast ballots on behalf of others. The plaintiffs said they will appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Illinois: U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan blocked Election Day voter registration at polling places in Illinois, declaring a state law allowing the practice unconstitutional because it created one set of rules for cities and another for rural areas. Voters will still be able to register Nov. 8 and cast a ballot for president but only at a limited number of sites, including the county clerk's office, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Kansas: On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robison ordered Secretary of State Kris Kobach to appear in court on Friday and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court. The plaintiffs contend Kobach has failed to register individuals applying at Division of Motor Vehicle offices who haven’t shown proof of citizenship — despite a federal order. Robinson directs Kobach to appear at the Friday hearing, and says he may file a written reply by the end of business Thursday.
Also in Kansas, Shawnee Co. Judge Larry Hendricks amended his original order allowing people who registered to vote at the DMV, but failed to provide proof-of-citizenship to vote in the primary to include the upcoming November general election.
Missouri: This week, the St. Louis Board of Elections asked an appeals court to modify a previous ruling on absentee voting and allow the county to use touch-screen voting machines for voters with disabilities. “The Board respectfully suggests the following sentence: ‘This Opinion does not bar the use of touch-screen absentee ballot voting without the use of envelopes for persons who appear in person to vote absentee and who demonstrate that a disability prevents them from voting using a paper ballot but would be able to vote using a touch-screen voting machine.’”
New Hampshire: Get your duck face ready! This week the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rule that New Hampshire authorities provided no evidence that ballot selfies encouraged vote buying or voter coercion. “The ballot-selfie prohibition is like ‘burn[ing down] the house to roast the pig,’” wrote Judge Sandra Lynch. The secretary of state’s office is reviewing the decision and considering legal options, including asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
Ohio: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ohio’s process of removing inactive voters from the voter rolls violates federal law. One judge on the court's three-judge panel concurred in part, and dissented in part. The decision sends the case back to the lower court, which must establish a process for either restoring purged voters to the rolls or allowing them to vote provisionally and having all those votes count.
Also in Ohio a group that includes the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Ohio Democratic Party wants the full 15-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a law that allows election officials to throw out absentee ballots if the voter legibly signs his or her name in the space that calls for the name to be printed.
South Carolina: Students at Furman University in South Carolina have sued Greenville County challenging the county’s handling of voter registration. The students’ suit asserts that the students should be allowed to register at their school address instead of their home address. According to Greenville Online, the students claim a longstanding policy created by Greenville County Board of Voter Registration and Elections goes beyond state election law and has thwarted efforts of Furman University students for years who want to register to vote in the location where they live for much of the year.
Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law. According to The Statesman, the appeal could take months and will not affect rules adopted for the upcoming general election.
Virginia: Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit heard arguments involving Virginia’s voter ID law. During the hearing, the justices repeatedly asked plaintiffs and defendants if the Virginia law resembled the North Carolina law the 4th Circuit recently overturned.