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electionlineWeekly — October 27, 2016

Table of Contents

 VI. Legal Updates

Arizona: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals heard arguments this week over whether or not elections officials should count out-of-precinct provisional ballots. Plaintiffs argue that not counting the ballots affects minorities more often than white voters.

Colorado: State Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and a University of Denver student have filed suit in federal court arguing that Colorado’s ban on ballot selfies violates their First Amendment rights. "And while exercising free speech, they now have to be worried about being prosecuted for participating in the political process or for encouraging discussion on the important civic choices facing our state," Hill told The Gazette. "We need to stand alongside all Colorado voters by fighting for this reform."

Florida: U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said that there is no evidence that state elections officials are intentionally moving slowing in verifying some of the 64,000 additional voter applications received during the extended deadline. He rejected the Florida Democratic Party’s request to allow people to cast a ballot during early voting even if their registration hasn’t been verified.

Also in Florida, NORML of Florida has sued the Broward County supervisor of elections office because some mail-in ballots did not include a question about a state constitutional amendment on allowing medical marijuana.

Michigan: Michiganders, get those duck faces ready! U.S. District Judge Janet Neff has ruled that the state’s prohibition of ballot selfies violates the First Amendment. “The Court agrees with the Plaintiff that the interests in the integrity of the electoral process can be secured in a more reasonable manner than the blanket prohibition on citizens' photography,” Neff ruled. Well, maybe not so fast. The state is appealing the ruling.

Missouri: St. Louis County prosecutors are investigating allegations of voter fraud in Berkeley. The allegations claim that the mayor and his supporters may have illegally interfered with the absentee ballot process.

New Mexico. The New Mexico Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a suit that says the state law prohibiting unaffiliated voters from voting in primaries violates the state constitution. “Nowhere in the Constitution is membership in a political party a requirement for voters in the state of New Mexico,” lawyer, J. Edward Hollington, told the court. According to the lawsuit, nearly 60 percent of legislative, county-level and judicial races were decided in that primary because there were no general election contests for those offices.

Ohio: The Ohio Democratic Party and homeless advocates have filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to change state election laws that affect homeless voters. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Justice Elena Kagan to stop Secretary of State Jon Husted from carrying out a pair of 2014 statutes requiring Ohioans to accurately complete five fields of information — name, address, date of birth, signature and partial Social Security number — on requests for absentee or provisional ballots. If a mistake is made, the ballot is thrown out even if elections officials can identify the voter as eligible. The groups won in federal district court and largely lost in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 13.

Virginia: On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hamilton ordered that the Virginia voter registration rolls be reopened with a new deadline of 11:59pm on Friday. The ruling was the result of a suit brought after the state’s online voter registration crashed on the original voter registration deadline.

West Virginia: The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Voting Rights Project have filed a class-action lawsuit against Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole for refusing to recognize and permit online voter registration in the county. “Since Karen Cole has refused to process all of these registrations automatically like all of the other county clerks are doing, we don’t know how many people this could affect,” said Jamie Lyn Crofts, ACLU-WV legal director. “Thousands of people have been using this online system and we are very worried that people don’t know that they are going to have to complete this extra step ... Many people could be disenfranchised on Election Day because of it.” Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers agreed with the ACLU this week and ordered Cole to accept and process the online voter registrations.