IV. Legal Updates
Georgia: Four e-poll books were stolen from a Cobb County precinct manager’s car over the weekend, just days before a special election was set to occur. Janine Eveler, Cobb County elections director, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that while the theft would not impact the special election, the devices did contain a copy of the state’s voter file which include voters personal information like birthdate and driver’s license numbers, but not social security numbers. On Wednesday, an arrest was made in the case. The e-poll books were not recovered though because they were placed in a dumpster and the dumpster was subsequently dumped at the landfill making it almost impossible to retrieve the devices.
Kansas: Judge James O’Hara has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to disclose documents outlining a strategic plan he presented to then-President-elect Donald Trump in November. The plan, which was in Kobach’s hand when he met with the president-elect made reference to voter rolls, but that portion of the document was obscured by Kobach’s hand. The ACLU sought the documents disclosure as part of their ongoing suit against Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law. Kobach is seeking a stay in the decision.
Maine: Last week the state’s highest court heard arguments on the constitutionality of ranked choice voting in The Pine Tree State. During the hearing, Justice Joseph Jabar told Phyllis Gardiner, an assistant attorney general, that if “we don’t take any action now, there’s definitely going to be a challenge after the next election.” “People aren’t going to know how to vote because they don’t know if it’s going to be a plurality system or a ranked-choice voting system,” Jabar said according to the Bangor Daily News. But James Kilbreth, an attorney for ranked-choice voting supporters, said it wasn’t necessary that the court weigh in before legislators move to implement the law, calling it “a tail-wagging-the-dog kind of problem.”
Montana: The Green Party of Montana is taking their fight for ballot access in the upcoming May 25 special election all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The party is appealing a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court that denied an emergency motion requesting a Green Party candidate’s name be added to the ballot.
New York: In 2016, Common Cause sued the New York City Board of Elections over the purging of 200,000 voters shortly before the election. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office subsequently joined the suit charging that the city wrongly purged the voters. In papers filed this week, the city indicated that it working towards a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs.
Pennsylvania: The state’s highest court has tossed a lawsuit seeking the replacement of Philadelphia’s city commissioners. The Committee of Seventy, an elections watchdog group had sued saying that like county officials, the city’s elections officials should recuse themselves from May’s primary. City attorneys argued that Philadelphia commissioners don’t serve in the same capacity as county commissioner and their sole job is to run Philly’s elections. The Supreme Court gave no reason for the dismissal.
Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued an opinion that a court is likely to conclude that election judges are public officers and must take the constitutional oath of office, in addition to the election officer’s oath. The Texas Secretary of State's Election Division had previously opined that election judges are not state officers within the meaning of the constitution and the constitutional oath of office is not applicable to election judges and early voting election officials.