V. Legal Update
National: The American Civil Liberties Union has sent Freedom of Information Act requests to Kansas, Indiana, Maine and New Hampshire. “We believe the outcome of the commission’s investigation is preordained,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It’s time to shed light on whether any commission members were crafting policy recommendations before their investigation was launched or the commission was even formally announced. If they’ve got evidence, it’s time to stop hiding and start sharing.”
Florida: Clay County Circuit Judge Gary Wilkinson has upheld an election for Putnam County sheriff that was decided by only 16 votes. In his 21-page ruling, Wilkinson concluded that it reflected the will of the voters and that the challenger did not prove a number of controversial ballots were sufficient to sway, or cast doubts on the results.
Maine: The state’s highest court has ruled that ranked choice voting, approved by the voters in 2016 is unconstitutional. In a unanimous advisory opinion, the seven justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court acknowledged the validity of citizen-initiative ballot questions but noted that even citizen-enacted laws can be unconstitutional. “The object must always be to ‘ascertain the will of the people,'” the court wrote. “Nonetheless, when a statute – including one enacted by citizen initiative – conflicts with a constitutional provision, the constitution prevails.”
Ohio: According to Secretary of State Jon Husted, 22 people have been referred for prosecution for voting in both Ohio and another state in 2016. “We reviewed every reported case of voter suppression and voter fraud and are sharing those facts to inform the discussion on election integrity," Husted told The Toledo Blade. “Once again our review shows that while rare, voting fraud does occur. But more importantly, we are holding those accountable who violate our election laws,” Mr. Husted said.
South Carolina: Richland County, South Carolina has reached an agreement with Office of Civil Rights to bring 49 polling places into accordance with the American with Disabilities Act. The county has until June to make the sites accessible.
Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued a ruling that 262 men housed in treatment center for sexual offenses are allowed to cast ballots by mail. The men at the facility have completed their prison sentences, but are civilly committed to the facility. Paxton’s ruling means that under Texas law, they are permitted to cast their ballots. The ruling comes after about 100 ballots from offenders at the facility were tossed in November 2016.
Wisconsin: Attorney General Brad Schimel has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to have the court block a lower court ruling that would force state lawmakers to redraw legislative maps by November. “Wisconsin should not be required to invest the considerable time, effort and taxpayer resources required to redraw district maps, especially when the case is likely to be reversed,” Schimel said in a statement.